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UNHCR condemns victimization of civilians in Somalia

Briefing notes

UNHCR condemns victimization of civilians in Somalia

16 April 2010

UNHCR is shocked by the further loss of civilian lives we've seen from fighting in Mogadishu earlier this week. More than 30 people are reported killed, many of them civilians including children. From local sources we understand that medical facilities are having difficulties coping with the many wounded. Residents have described this 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 again urges parties to the conflict to avoid targeting civilian facilities and heavily populated areas of Mogadishu which already shelter more than 300,000 internally displaced people (IDPs).

According to initial information we've had, this latest violence has displaced at least 500 people. In total more than 100,000 people have been displaced from or within Mogadishu this year so far, with most having fled to the relative safety of IDP camps in the Afgooye corridor some 30 kilometers west of the capital.

At the same time almost every third IDP stayed in the city. Some of them have been taken in by friends or relatives, but many are simply unable to afford the trip to Afgooye camps or other safer locations in Somalia. The situation of these IDPs is alarming. Already impoverished by years of conflict and forced from their homes they are quickly running out of means to support themselves. Persistent fighting and generalized violence makes it dangerous and difficult for aid agencies to access and provide humanitarian assistance to the vulnerable and needy.

Countrywide, some 169,000 Somalis have become IDPs this year. In addition, more than 20,000 have fled to the neighbouring countries - mostly to Kenya, Ethiopia and Yemen.

With 1.4 million IDPs, some 570,000 refugees in the region and nearly 3 million people dependent on humanitarian aid, Somalia is one of the worst humanitarian crises in the world.