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Somalia: 90,000 have fled recent fighting in Mogadishu

Briefing notes

Somalia: 90,000 have fled recent fighting in Mogadishu

2 November 2007

The situation in the Somali capital, Mogadishu, has calmed down since Tuesday reducing dramatically the number of civilians fleeing the city after some 90,000 fled an outbreak of violence over the last week, according to the latest figures collected by a network of UNHCR's local partners. The situation however, remains volatile and tense with people living in fear. Today, Friday, no civilians were seen fleeing, except from an area around the livestock market in north Mogadishu, where insurgents reportedly attacked an Ethiopian base on Thursday night.

The latest fighting pitted Ethiopian troops, in Somalia to help the Transitional Federation Government (TFG), against insurgents. An aid worker in Mogadishu said the fighting on Saturday, Sunday and Monday was the worst in months.

The abrupt escalation in fighting, particularly last weekend, has frightened people. Added to this was confusion over an alleged warning from the mayor of Mogadishu to evacuate three districts located around the sprawling Bakara market, which prompted people to flee. The mayor issued a radio message on Tuesday urging civilians to stay in their homes, which has lessened the numbers fleeing.

Some 47,000 people who left the capital since Saturday have settled along the road linking Mogadishu to Afgooye, some 30 kilometres to the west. Most of the people leaving the city went to areas surrounding the capital - 58,000 to Lower Shabelle, including 47,000 in Afgooye, and 8,000 to Middle Shabelle. Another 5,700 travelled to Baidoa, some 250 km north-west of Mogadishu, while 17,000 have moved to safer neighbourhoods within the capital.

Those recorded fleeing Mogadishu came mainly from Hodan, Hawl Wadaag and Wardhiigley and Haliwaa districts. The 47,000 who fled to Afgooye joined some 100,000 displaced people who fled the capital earlier this year. The new arrivals have moved into small shelters constructed by their relatives in settlements that have mushroomed in the area. Entire families are now crammed in tiny huts, according to our staff reports from Afgooye and there is a need for more shelters, food, water, and sanitation facilities.

Fighting earlier this year led to an exodus of nearly 400,000 people from Mogadishu, with only 125,000 returning so far. There are currently 450,000 people internally displaced after fleeing Mogadishu this year, bringing the total number of IDPs in Somalia to an estimated 850,000.

The UN refugee agency has delivered aid to 78,000 people in Afgooye this year and is preparing to carry out another distribution.