Conflict displaces 63,000 civilians in southern Somalia so far this year

News Stories, 19 January 2010

© UNHCR/M.Sheik Nor
A group of internally displaced people outside their rude shelters in an area west of Mogadishu.

NAIROBI, Kenya, January 19 (UNHCR) Continuing fighting and general insecurity in southern Somalia has displaced an estimated 63,000 people since the beginning of this year.

Conflict continues in the capital Mogadishu where, according to local sources, street battles last Wednesday between government forces and Al-Shabaab and Hisb-ul-Islam militiamen left at least 10 people dead, including children. In the past two weeks, some 14,000 people were displaced from and within the city.

Fresh fighting between the government-aligned Alu Sunna Wal Jamma militia and Hisb-ul-Islam erupted in the central Somalia town of Belet Weyne on January 9, reportedly killing at least 30 civilians and injuring another 50.

Thousands of people have been forced to flee from their homes and an estimated 11,900 have temporarily settled around Belet Weyne in appalling conditions. The surrounding Hiraan region, bordering Ethiopia, is already hosting more than 50,000 internally displaced people (IDPs).

Meanwhile, in Dhuusamarreeb, in the central region of Galgaduud, the reported number of people displaced following renewed clashes between Alu Sunna Wal Jamma and Al-Shabaab early this year has also risen. UNHCR estimates that some 28,800 people are now displaced in villages surrounding the town of Dhuusamarreeb. They are in urgent need of shelter, water and health care.

According to sketchy reports, at least 150 people have been killed and 80 injured in the fighting in this part of Somalia. As the struggle for control of the territory continues, insecurity makes it extremely difficult for aid workers to access the area and deliver vital assistance.

The suffering in Somalia is one of the worst humanitarian crises in the world, with some 1.5 million people internally displaced and more than 560,000 people living as refugees in neighbouring countries, mainly in Kenya (309,000), Yemen (163,000) and Ethiopia (59,000).

By Roberta Russo in Nairobi, Kenya

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