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Aid reaches some displaced families as fighting continues in Mogadishu

© UNICEF Video
A child holds a cup in the Galgalato camp for people displaced by a new round of fighting in Mogadishu, the capital of Somalia.

By Mohamed Olad Hassan

MOGADISHU, Somalia, 9 July 2009 – As battles between government forces and armed groups continue to rock Mogadishu, more families are being driven out of their homes in search of safety every day. Over 200,000 of the city's residents have been displaced since a new round of intense fighting erupted at the beginning of May.

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Displaced residents are now scattered around the outskirts of the city and further away, many of them in a desperate state.

Ragged settlements

Hundreds of people have been killed and many others wounded due to the heavy fighting. Families are having to flee with little more than their sleeping mats and the clothes they have on.

© UNICEF Video
Women wait for humanitarian supplies near the Bakara market in Mogadishu.

Ragged settlements under the trees on the capital's outskirts and along the so-called Afgoye corridor – 30 km west of Mogadishu – are now home for most of the displaced.

Sahra Ahmed Dahir, a 24-year-old mother of six and the only caregiver for her children, is living under a tree with her family. "I am staying with my children under this poor shelter that I made from tiny tree branches and worn-out plastic sheets that I collected," she said.

"Being displaced is affecting me and my children badly," said another mother, Shino Ali, 45. "We lack shelter, food, education for my children and health services."

UNICEF and partners respond

In response to the displacement crisis – and as part of a larger coordinated effort among aid agencies to address Mogagishu's current emergency – UNICEF is partnering with the Danish Refugee Council (DRC) and a local non-governmental organization, Somali Youth for Peace and Development (SYPD).

© UNICEF Video
Displaced Somali women wait to receive distribution cards.

Together, the partners are distributing emergency supplies for over 6,000 households (about 47,000 people) displaced in and around Mogadishu. The supplies of non-food items include plastic sheets, blankets, jerry cans, soap and mosquito nets.

In Daynile district camp, 3,000 displaced households received the emergency supplies in June.

'Not responding is not an option'

The situation endured by displaced people is dire, marked by poor sanitation and a shortage of necessities such as food and water. The latest fighting has affected even the northern, relatively more peaceful parts of the capital. Extreme lack of security is hampering aid delivery.

"We are trying to do our best by distributing plastic sheets and other non-food items for displaced families around Mogadishu. There is little we can do given the current situation, but we are trying to fill the vacuum as much as we can," said SYPD Director Abdi Nur.

"Even under the current severe circumstances, not responding is not an option," said UNICEF Somalia Emergency Officer Maulid Warfa.

Besides distributing supplies in Mogadishu, he added, "we continue to work with our partners to assist displaced people along the Afgoye corridor through prevention and treatment of acute malnutrition among children, and provision of safe water for about 200,000 people – including the newly displaced."

Aid workers face risks

The Afgoye corridor, a stretch of the world's mostly densely populated displacement settlements, already hosts about 400,000 people and continues to receive new arrivals from Mogadishu.

"Even before the current escalation in violence, Somali aid workers took extreme risks to deliver aid to people in need," said the DRC's Programme Manager for South-Central Somalia, Maja Denic Munk. "However, irrespective of the risks taken, we must ensure that we remain accountable to the people we serve."




2 July 2009: UNICEF correspondent Natacha Ikoli reports on the humanitarian crisis facing people displaced by fighting in Mogadishu, Somalia.
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