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UNICEF says conflict and lack of access hinder response to displaced thousands in Mogadishu

NAIROBI/KENYA, 20 April 2007 - UNICEF and other UN agencies, eager to assist children and their families affected and displaced by ongoing conflict in the Somali capital, Mogadishu, are finding their efforts hindered by the insecurity in the strife-hit city.

According to UNICEF Somalia Representative, Christian Balslev-Olesen, “We are extremely anxious to reach the displaced population especially since most of them are women and children under the age of 14. These are the most vulnerable people in any community. We have heard the appeal of Somali civil society to the humanitarian community for more help and we continue to respond, as far as we are able, with supplies and technical support. But our access is limited. And so we reiterate our call to all parties involved in the conflict to do everything within their power to allow us to reach those who need our assistance the most.”

The situation in Mogadishu has been critical since December. Over 200,000 people are reported to be on the move to escape the conflict, hospitals are overflowing with casualties and health centres are dealing with an increasing number of cases of acute water diarrhoea.

Says Balslev-Olesen, “UNICEF warehouses in the capital containing relief supplies cannot be reached due to conflict in the area and the use of Mogadishu airport to bring in further supplies carries its own security risks.”

Meanwhile however, using pre-positioned supplies, UNICEF is assisting displaced families with the provision of ‘Family Relief Kits’ (comprising: 3 blankets/2 jerry cans/1 plastic sheet/1 cooking set/5 bars soap) to at least 7,300 households (approx. 47,000 people). Each household also receives two long-lasting insecticide-treated mosquito nets, provided as part of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria programme for Somalia.

With public sanitation conditions worsening as the number of displaced people in and around the city increase, existing limited basic services are feeling the strain and increasing the risk of disease transmission. To combat this, UNICEF is working with the World Health Organization, local communities and implementing partners in Somalia to provide safe water and treat and prevent the transmission of acute watery diarrhea. Activities in support of this include chlorinating water sources; constructing latrines; supplying soap and water purification tablets; and promoting good hygiene and sanitation practices especially in locations where displaced people are congregating. In addition, UNICEF has provided four 5,000 litre bladders to store chlorinated water for use around Mogadishu.

Health posts and Maternal and Child Health clinics are also receiving Oral Rehydration Salts and intravenous rehydration kits for the treatment of diarrhoea along with highly effective anti-malaria treatment (Artemisinin-based combination therapy or ACT) and rapid diagnostic tests.

With limited access in-country, UNICEF is also expressing concern about its ability to evaluate the extent of child rights violations in Southern Somalia. However, reports from child protection monitors in Mogadishu cite cases of children, ranging in age from seven months to 18 years, as victims of indiscriminate shooting and shelling: many of them seriously injured or killed. UNICEF is mobilizing and supporting partner organizations to identify and reunite with their families, hundreds of children separated following the exodus from the capital.

UNICEF is on the ground in over 150 countries and territories to help children survive and thrive, from early childhood through adolescence.  The world’s largest provider of vaccines for developing countries, UNICEF supports child health and nutrition, good water and sanitation, quality basic education for all boys and girls, and the protection of children from violence, exploitation, and AIDS. UNICEF is funded entirely by the voluntary contributions of individuals, businesses, foundations and governments.

For further information contact:

• Christian Balslev-Olesen, Representative, UNICEF Somalia. Email: cbalslev-olesen@unicef.org. Tel: +254-20-7623950/53/55/70. Mobile: +254-722-514-569/733-629-933.

• Siddharth Chatterjee, Deputy Representative. Email: schatterjee@unicef.org, Tel: +254-20-7623950/53/55/70. Mobile: +254-733-617-923.

• Bastien Vigneau, Emergency Officer. Email: bvigneau@unicef.org, Tel: +254-20-7623950/53/55/70. Mobile: +254-733-254-017.

• Denise Shepherd-Johnson. Chief of Communication, UNICEF Somalia: Email: dshepherdjohnson@unicef.org. Tel: +254-20-7623950/53/55/70. Mobile: +254-722-719-867.




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