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Somali refugees have little chance of celebrating Eid

bild_004DOLLOW, Somalia (Reuters) – Hauling plastic sheeting through the barren Scrub of




Southern Somalia, Jamal Aden And his Heavily pregnant wife have no chance of




Scraping together the meal That traditionally marks the end of Ramadan.




Apart from the will of God, we have nothing to help us celebrate Eid, nothing to sacrifice," the devout Muslim said. "At home, in good times, we would have slaughtered a camel and collected wild fruits.


"Ramadan has been tough, almost unbearable," the 30-year-old told Reuters, sifting through blankets donated by the U.N.’s refugee agency (UNHCR).

The couple are among the latest wave of Somalis fleeing a deadly combination of war and drought — one of the worst to afflict the region in decades — in the lawless country where Islamist rebels are waging an insurgency.

The Islamic holy month, during which the Muslim faithful go without food and water during daylight hours, has been gruelling for the family, who huddle under a shelter made of branches, cardboard boxes and a torn mosquito net.

The landscape surrounding the border town of Dollow has been stripped clean of nearly all vegetation, while the drought wiped out Aden’s livestock.

Less than two kilometres from the Juba river that separates Somalia and Ethiopia, Dollow has been a major transit point for the refugees that have flooded across the frontier since a famine in southern Somalia first began to bite.

More than 800,000 Somalis are refugees outside their own country, according to U.N. estimates, while up to 1.5 million are displaced within the Horn of Africa country.

As the relief operation to reach some 3.7 million Somalis at risk of starvation is ramped up, aid groups want to focus on stemming the latest exodus.


"We should not aim at emptying Somalia. Our aim should be to create conditions for Somalis to be able to live in Somalia and for Somali refugees one day to have the opportunity to go back in safety and in dignity," Antonio Guterres, the global head of UNHCR, told reporters on a visit to Dollow.

Dignity is in short supply for one-year-old Abdi. Weighing little more than a new-born baby, his wrinkled skin hangs loosely off his stick-thin arms.

Only intravenous feeding, available at a clinic across the border, might save Abdi’s life, one aid worker said.

Emergency relief operations across southern Somalia have been hampered by the al Qaeda-affiliated al Shabaab rebels who control huge swathes of the region and banned numerous Western aid agencies from operating in the area almost two years ago.

As Somalis in the distant capital of Mogadishu prepared to break the Ramadan fast, al Shabaab vowed more attacks against African Union troops and the government during Eid celebrations.

Guterres urged the militants and other militia groups to allow aid agencies access to the millions of hungry people.

"We appeal to all the parties in the conflict to respect humanitarian law, to grant access, for humanitarian aid to be (seen as) neutral and not diverted for devious purposes," said Guterres.

(Additional reporting by Mohamed Ahmed in Mogadishu; Editing by David Clarke and Robert Woodward)

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