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Somalia: Renewed fighting in Mogadishu sparks fresh exodus

Briefing notes

Somalia: Renewed fighting in Mogadishu sparks fresh exodus

25 April 2008

The latest flare-up in fighting this week in the Somali capital, Mogadishu, has sparked a fresh exodus of an estimated 7,000 people rushing to escape violence that has killed a substantial number of civilians and reportedly wounded some 200, including women and children. The exodus from the war-ravaged city further aggravates the situation in a country where over 1 million people are already internally displaced. Some 700,000 of them fled Mogadishu last year alone. The latest violence also prevents the internally displaced living in areas surrounding the city from returning to their homes.

International aid agencies, including UNHCR, already encounter serious security obstacles in reaching the affected populations to provide them with the protection and assistance they need. Additional to the recurrent violence, aid workers regularly face problems at checkpoints, including demands for money in exchange for passage.

Eyewitnesses have reported to UNHCR that more than a thousand families fled from their homes in two neighbourhoods in the north of Mogadishu following heavy shelling of residential areas, as Ethiopian-backed Transitional Federal Government forces engaged in fighting with insurgents, placing civilians at great risk. Scores of civilians have reportedly been killed or wounded over the past few days, among them worshippers brutally killed in a mosque, sparking fresh fears and renewed exodus of civilians from the city.

Many of those fleeing the capital have sought safety in the bush or on the road leading to the small town of Afgooye, 30 km to the west, which has more than 250,000 displaced civilians already living in precarious conditions. Most of these people escaped previous fighting in Mogadishu in 2007. They are among the 700,000 people who fled violence in the Somali capital last year and remain displaced within their own country. UNHCR staff report that since yesterday (Thursday), the fighting has receded and even stopped in Mogadishu. But people continue to gradually leave the town even though in reduced numbers than previous days.

As soon as security allows, UNHCR will make another round of non-food aid distributions in the outlying settlements along the Mogadishu-Afgooye road, which will benefit up to 14,000 families/84,000 persons. The first phase of the distribution is planned for next week and will target 7,000 families, including the most vulnerable ones. Much-needed household items such as sleeping mats, blankets, jerry cans and plastic sheets will be distributed. Last year, UNHCR distributed non-food items to up to 100,000 people in the same area - one round in April-May and a second one in September-October.