Baidoa—Internally displaced migrants—of whom there are millions across Africa—are a social challenge, and not merely because they require shelter and services. Their presence may also create tension across poor communities, often because as many do establish temporary homes to live in, they raise conflicts of over land tenure and their very right to remain in place.
Consider the city of Baidoa, in Somalia’s southwestern Bay region, where thousands of internally displaced persons are under constant threat of eviction. Baidoa currently hosts more than 323,000 displaced people, many of whom live on private land without secure tenure agreements.
The International Organization for Migration (IOM) has joined an effort to provide a more durable solution to displacement in Baidoa by planning to relocate some 24,000 IDPs at risk of eviction to public sites in coming months. One crucial early step: the South-West State has provided public land to humanitarian partners, coordinated by the Camp Coordination and Camp Management Cluster, for development and subsequent relocation of displaced families who find themselves at risk of eviction.
“This effort by the authorities in Baidoa and South-West State is vital to ensuring that displaced people in Baidoa live in dignified conditions until they wish to return to their home areas, or integrate into the local community,” said Rainer Gonzalez, IOM’s Senior Programmes Coordinator.
Maalim Osman, a community leader, agreed. ‘‘I came to Baidoa a year and a half ago and I have been evicted twice—while still facing the same risk,” he explained. “Every night as I sleep on my makeshift shelter, I worry a lot – not on where the next meal will come from, but when the next eviction will be.”
According to the Housing, Land and Property Sub- Cluster, more than 11,900 individuals were evicted in Baidoa without proper notice this year just between January and March. The rise in cases of evictions have been attributed to sprawling urbanization. The turmoil also contributes to a spike in local demand which in turn raises the value of Baidoa’s accessible land.
An eviction risk assessment conducted in February by humanitarian partners revealed that 48 out of the 391 IDP sites hosting 5,170 households in Baidoa were at very high risk of eviction and 117 IDP sites hosting 12,697 households were at high risk. Discussions and community consultations were held with the local leaders and communities from these 48 IDP sites in Baidoa town to identify those who would be interested in being relocated.
Of the 48 IDP sites involved, residents from 15 of them showed willingness to be relocated.
This latest effort began last October when IOM received funding support from European Civil Protection And Humanitarian Aid Operations (ECHO), the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development (DFID) and the United States Government’s Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA). Together with those stakeholders, IOM launched development of this donated land in partnership with UN HABITAT and Baidoa municipal authorities.
On 7 April, IOM along with other partners and government representatives, accompanied community representatives from the 15 IDP sites to the public site for a “Go and See visit”. Communities were shown the site and services available, including the security posts, plot sizes, water collection points, and lockable household latrines. “Relocation is voluntary,” said IOM’s Kathryn Ziga, a camp management consultant. “If they like what they see, they can decide to move.”
Osman, for one, is ready. “Today, as I stand here at the public site, my worry is over. I can’t wait to settle on a plot to call home and my own.’’
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