New fighting erupts in Somalia, number of casualties increases
The civilian population is bearing the brunt in the latest upsurge in fighting in the troubled South Central region of Somalia and sparking a new wave of displacement. According to a network of our local partners, 145 people have been killed and another 285 injured in heavy clashes throughout Somalia, mainly in Kismayo and Mogadishu in September alone.
For the first time, clashes have erupted in Kismayo between Al-Shabaab and Hisb-ul-Islam, two Islamist groups, who until this week were working together to topple the Somali government. Yesterday, Al Shabaab said it had taken control of the southern city of Kismayo from their former allies. According to hospital sources, some 12 people were killed and 50 others injured.
Fighting had taken place between government forces and Hisb-ul-Islam for control of Beled Weyne on the Somali-Ethiopia border earlier this week. Confrontations continue in the capital Mogadishu between the government forces and opposition groups.
The rate of displacement of civilians within Somalia had diminished over the last two months, as compared to the months of May and June 2009, but it is still high, with 17,000 people displaced within Somalia during September alone, including 11,000 from the capital.
We are extremely concerned about the dire humanitarian situation of hundreds of thousands of civilians who have been displaced by the continuing conflict in Somalia. Should the fighting between Al Shabaab and Hisb-ul-Islam escalate, we fear that more than half a million internally displaced people (IDPs) in the Afgooye corridor, some 30 km south of Mogadishu, could be affected and uprooted once again.
Insecurity in the Afgooye area is already significantly limiting humanitarian access to the IDPs, but the situation could further deteriorate, making it even more difficult for Somali and international humanitarian agencies to deliver assistance to people in need.
There are serious regional repercussions of the continuing fighting and displacement in Somalia. More than 50,000 Somalis fled to Kenya since the beginning of the year to escape the violence and growing humanitarian crisis in their country. Another 22,000 made a perilous journey across the Gulf on Aden in rickety boats, looking for safety and shelter in Yemen.
UNHCR provides protection and assistance to more than 515,000 Somali refugees in the nearby countries of Kenya, Yemen, Ethiopia, Djibouti and Uganda. Somalia is one of the countries generating the highest number of refugees in the world. There are also more than 1.5 million IDPs in the country and the number is constantly increasing. Half of the population of Somalia is in urgent need of food and humanitarian assistance.