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Fresh fighting drives more Somalis from Mogadishu, leaves many dead

News Stories, 12 February 2010

© UNHCR/A.Albadri
Families load their belongings into and onto a minibus before fleeing Mogadishu.

NAIROBI, Kenya, February 12 (UNHCR) Fresh fighting between government forces and the Al-Shabaab militia in the Somali capital of Mogadishu is displacing thousands of civilians. Reportedly, some 24 civilians have been killed and 40 injured in the latest clashes, which erupted on Wednesday.

"We are very concerned about the escalating violence in south and central Somalia, including the capital, which is causing large-scale displacement and human suffering," said a UNHCR spokesperson. "We call upon all parties to the conflict to respect international humanitarian law, breaches of which have been the main cause of displacement in the capital and elsewhere in the last year."

Some residents had begun to stream out of Mogadishu a few days before the latest clashes following reports of a major military build-up and a possible government offensive against the armed opposition groups occupying parts of the city. Since the beginning of February, more than 8,000 people have left the city to escape the fighting that is said to be raging in several areas, especially in the northern suburbs of Haliwaa, Yaaqshiid and Wardhiigleey.

Many have reportedly gone to other relatively safe areas of the capital or to the Afgooye corridor, where there are already an estimated 366,000 people displaced by previous conflicts. The corridor, which stretches some 30 kilometres west of Mogadishu, has one of the largest concentrations of displaced people in the world.

More than a quarter-of-a-million civilians have been forced to flee Mogadishu since May 2009, when armed opposition groups first launched attacks aimed at ousting the newly installed transitional government.

"We are stepping up our preparedness to intervene and deliver emergency relief to the affected population as soon as the security situation permits. As with other humanitarian actors, our own access is affected by conflict," the UNHCR spokesperson said.

Somalia is one of the countries generating the highest number of displaced people in the world. It has more than 1.4 million internally displaced people, while more than 560,000 Somalis live as refugees in neighbouring and nearby countries.

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Flood Airdrop in Kenya

Over the weekend, UNHCR with the help of the US military began an emergency airdrop of some 200 tonnes of relief supplies for thousands of refugees badly hit by massive flooding in the Dadaab refugee camps in northern Kenya.

In a spectacular sight, 16 tonnes of plastic sheeting, mosquito nets, tents and blankets, were dropped on each run from the C-130 transport plane onto a site cleared of animals and people. Refugees loaded the supplies on trucks to take to the camps.

Dadaab, a three-camp complex hosting some 160,000 refugees, mainly from Somalia, has been cut off from the world for a month by heavy rains that washed away the road connecting the remote camps to the Kenyan capital, Nairobi. Air transport is the only way to get supplies into the camps.

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During a recent visit to Yemen, UNHCR Assistant High Commissioner for Protection Erika Feller pledged to further raise the profile of the situation, to appeal for additional funding and international action to help Yemen, and to develop projects that will improve the living conditions and self sufficiency of the refugees in Yemen.

Since January 2006, Yemen has received nearly 30,000 people from Somalia, Ethiopia and other places, while more than 500 people have died during the sea crossing and at least 300 remain missing. UNHCR provides assistance, care and housing to more than 100,000 refugees already in Yemen.

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