A record number of Somalis have been forced to flee their homes and seek refuge in Somalia’s capital, Mogadishu, Reuters reports.
With 2.6 million now living in Mogadishu, the city has become the most crowded city in Africa and the second most densely populated city in the world.
About 600,000 Somali people have also been internally displaced in Mogadishu, meaning they have been forced to evacuate their homes, but still live in the same country.
Over a few decades, the country has been struggling with the collapse of the Somali government in 1991. Clan warlords overthrew a dictator but then turned on each other, leaving Somalia without a functioning government, Reuters reports. This led to years of civil war, an insurgency by Al Qaeda-linked al-Shabab, and militant violence.
While many parts of Somalia are plagued with conflict, Mogadishu is more stable and has more humanitarian assistance. Because of this, many internally displaced people are seeking refuge in the capital — especially poor, rural migrants.
Some internally displaced Somalis have been evicted multiple times, and now live in informal camps within the city, according to the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC).
"Somali families are fleeing to Mogadishu seeking shelter, protection, and aid." Evelyn Aero, the NRC aid agency's regional adviser, told Reuters. "With nowhere else to go, crowding into these camps means that they will be living in an unhealthy environment that is unsafe.”
In addition to military violence, an erratic climate has depleted the country’s natural resources. A combination of drought, floods, and severe rainfall has caused rural Somalis to move into urban areas, reducing the country’s food supply. In 2011, a famine killed 260,000 people.
Somalia’s dwindling resources are not enough to provide for Mogadishu’s rapidly growing population. Displaced Somalis in the city do not have adequate food, water, shelter, or sanitation facilities. About 1.2 million children under the age of 5 are projected to be malnourished in Somalia by the end of 2018, according to UNICEF.
“They arrive in Mogadishu without shelter, food or any means to support their families,” said Aero.
The UN recently requested humanitarian aid of $1.5 billion for Somalia next year.
“More aid is needed to ensure that these people have a safe place to stay, with enough basic humanitarian aid to survive,” said Aero. “Conflict and natural disasters force families to flee to cities. Many that flee fighting escape in a hurry, with just the clothes on their backs.”