Somalia: Spiraling Violence Claims Hundreds of Lives - UN Refugee Agency

The United Nations refugee agency today voiced its grave concern over the escalating violence and worsening displacement crisis in the Somali capital, where local hospitals report that over 250 civilians have been killed and nearly 1,000 others wounded since fighting erupted last month.

Continued fighting, which broke out on 7 May in several parts of north-west Mogadishu between Government forces and the opposition Al-Shabaab and Hisb-ul-Islam, "is leaving a trail of civilian casualties, destruction and renewed displacement," William Spindler, spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), told reporters in Geneva.

Since violence broke out last month, the agency estimates that over 160,000 people have been driven to other parts of Somalia or to neighbouring nations, with some 26,000 uprooted between 19 and 22 June alone.

Most of the internally displaced persons (IDPs), numbering nearly 50,000, have moved to safer areas within Mogadishu or to makeshift camps on the capital's outskirts. A further 45,000 people have fled towards the so-called Afgooye corridor 30 kilometres south-east of Mogadishu, joining 400,000 other IDPs who have been displaced since 2007.

Some of the newly displaced are families who had recently returned to the capital after a period of relative peace in the first quarter of this year, Mr. Spindler said.

"Many IDPs tell stories of hardship and suffering as they try to flee the embattled Somali capital," he added, noting that most people escaping the clashes are leaving on minibuses, whose drivers are charging $250 or more, carrying 20 people on average.

According to UNHCR's local partners, a mother of six who had left Mogadishu said it took her nine days to reach Afmadow, 400 kilometres west of the capital, with transporters taking her money and leaving her family stranded along the route.

"The deteriorating security situation has sharply reduced deliveries of desperately needed humanitarian aid to the displaced in and around Mogadishu," the agency's spokesperson said, adding that UNHCR partners, which are providing emergency aid to IDPs, are facing growing security problems.

Neighbouring Kenya is seeing numbers of Somalis crossing the border increase. Since the start of the year, 38,000 new refugees - virtually all of them from Somalia - have arrived. The Dabaab camp, the largest in the world, is currently home to nearly 300,000 people, three times the number it is intended to hold.

More than $4 million has been allocated from the UN Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) to alleviate overcrowding and assist Somali refugees at Kenyan camps, the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said today.

Last week, the Security Council voiced its concern at the situation in Somalia, reiterating its support for the Transitional Federal Government, its efforts to achieve peace, security and reconciliation in Somalia through the UN-facilitated Djibouti process, which aided the formation of the new government in February, as well as the creation of a newly-expanded Parliament and election of President Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed.

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