5 June 2009

Somalia: Nearly 100,000 Somalis Displaced in Capital in Past Month, UN Reports

Since fighting broke out last month between Government forces and armed opposition groups, almost 100,000 people have been driven from their homes in the capital, Mogadishu, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNCHR) reported today.

Out of the more than 96,000 people uprooted since 8 May, some 35,000 are still in the city because they have no means to leave, while 26,000 others have fled to makeshift sites in the so-called Afgooye corridor 30 kilometres south-east of the capital, joining 400,000 other internally displaced persons (IDPs). The remaining 35,000 people have fled to other parts of the Horn of Africa nation.

Some of those who have escaped recent fighting in Mogadishu are making their way to other countries, such as neighbouring Kenya and Ethiopia, to begin new lives, Ron Redmond, UNHCR spokesperson, told reporters today. More than 1,000 people have indicated they are considering risking their lives to make the perilous journey with smugglers across the Gulf of Aden to Yemen.

Since the beginning of this year, nearly 32,000 Somalis have crossed the border into Kenya, bringing the total number of refugees from Somalia in the country to almost 300,000.

"We continue to rush aid to the displaced in Somalia," Mr. Redmond said, with deliveries of UNHCR supplies - including plastic sheets, sleeping mats and blankets - having reached 12,600 people since 26 May.

The next phase of aid distribution on the south-eastern outskirts of Mogadishu, which sought to supply humanitarian aid to almost 30,000 people, set to begin earlier this week was called off due to clashes between the Government and opposition for control over the main road from the capital to Afgooye.

"UNHCR is leading a task force to coordinate the response and interventions of all humanitarian actors in this new emergency," the agency's spokesperson said.

Last week, Ahmedou Ould-Abdallah, the Secretary-General's Special Representative for Somalia, told a news conference in New York that after visiting the Horn of Africa nation, it was "very sad to see how the city [Mogadishu], the population and the country are taken hostage by those who have been fighting and destroying their country over the last 20 years."

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