Thousands of displaced families in the southern Somali city of Baidoa have received plots of land on which to build their own homes, ending years of poor living and anxiety over possible eviction.
Baidoa District Commissioner, Abdillahi Ali Watin, said 7,000 families from 54 camps in the city were given title deeds in the last eight months, giving them permanent ownership of their land.
The initiative is part of an ongoing programme to address long term and lasting solutions to the problems of internal displacement in the state, organised by the South West state government with support from the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC).
Markabo Ali Abukar is delighted to be living in the simple house she built on her own five-metres-squared plot of land, around five km south of Baidoa. She and her family were displaced for three years, within which period they suffered eviction on 10 occasions from various camps in Baidoa.
“The worst thing that happened to me was that I had no shelter for three days and three nights after being forced out of my house. I was always hoping that one day I may get my own house so I would not have to fear being evicted,” said Markabo.
Her family of 11 members are former pastoralists, who lost all their livestock in the 2016 drought in Qansahdhere, Bay region.
Each family in her camp contributed $320 for the purchase of land, received from NRC through their ration cards.
For the time being, Markabo’s family is living in a makeshift structure they put up quickly. Still, until they can build a better house, at least they are safe from further evictions.
“The documents they have indicate the land belongs to them and they cannot be evicted. They are the owners, they can sell or develop,” said Watin. “It is part of the solution for the IDP problems and it is meant to improve the lives of the displaced and also a necessity for human beings.”
Mumino Ahmed Ali, 47, and her family of six fled Awdinle village in Baidoa district during a severe drought in the area. They came to live in Elbay camp, on the outskirts of Baidoa, with around 143 other families. Each family contributed $100 to buy a plot of land.
Mumino told Radio Ergo she is happy to be a proper resident of Baidoa, having legally acquired a 4 x 5 metre plot on which she plans to build a house made of iron sheets.
“Our lives have just started because this is the end of our displacement! I always thought about the day I would have a proper shelter and now we are happy because we own this land,” said Mumino. “We don’t have to think of going back home; our lives are here.”
Some of those living on their own plots say they will collect money from their relatives to build permanent houses, while others say they cannot afford it and are awaiting further support from aid agencies for the construction of homes.
Yusuf Sidow Ali, chairman of Elbay camp, told Radio Ergo that eviction processes had often resulted in violence, injury, and the loss of people’s belongings. He said the families felt they were in a safe place owning the land legally.