UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador Angelina Jolie appeals for safety of civilians in Mogadishu

News Stories, 19 April 2010

© UNHCR/M.Sheikh Nor
A Somali woman and her children photographed last month in Mogadishu as they made their way to safety.

GENEVA, April 19 (UNHCR) UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador Angelina Jolie on Monday expressed her concern for the lives and the well-being of thousands of displaced people who are trapped in Somalia's capital, Mogadishu.

More than 170,000 Somalis have been forced from their homes across the country since the beginning of the year. Scores have been killed or injured in recent weeks amid some of the bloodiest fighting to date.

"I am deeply troubled by the complete and utter disregard for human life in Somalia," Jolie said in a statement released by the UN refugee agency. "Another tragedy is unfolding in Somalia as street battles rage on in Mogadishu, causing incredible suffering, massive displacement and loss of life."

While thousands of civilians have fled Mogadishu, many others stay behind, displaced and without any means to leave the beleaguered city and the waves of violence between government forces and the Al-Shabaab militia.

"I fear for their lives," said Jolie. "I appeal to those who carry on fighting not to shell and target civilian neighbourhoods."

The UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador, who met Somali refugees last September in north-east Kenya, added her voice to recent calls by High Commissioner Antònio Guterres for more international attention and help for the needy and vulnerable population in Somalia. Continued fighting and general insecurity make it extremely difficult for aid agencies to access and assist the displaced population.

Last week the refugee agency said it was shocked by the further loss of civilian lives in Mogadishu after more than 30 people were reported killed in the city, including children. Residents described last week's shelling as among the worst in months.

"It is unacceptable that the conflict in Somalia continues to be conducted without respect for the safety of civilians and in clear violation of international humanitarian and human rights principles," UNHCR's chief spokesperson, Melissa Fleming, told journalists last Friday in Geneva.

Somalia is one of the worst humanitarian crises in the world today with half the population in urgent need of humanitarian assistance. There are more than 1.4 million Somalis displaced inside the country and some 570,000 live as refugees in the region.