Aid workers warn of Somali nightmare amid fresh fighting

March 25th, 2008 Print Print Email Email

AFP/March 26,2008

Top international aid agencies warned Wednesday that war-scarred Somalia has become too dangerous for its workers to help more than one million civilians living rough as fresh fighting erupted near the capital.

Four Somali soldiers and two civilians were killed when Islamist fighters raided the town of Jowhar, 90 kilometres (55 miles) north of the capital Mogadishu, officials said.

Thirty-nine organisations including Oxfam, World Vision and Save the Children issued their warning of an impending impending humanitarian catastrophe ahead of a UN Security Council debate Thursday on the strife torn Horn of Africa country.

The groups first issued a warning about their work in October.

“Since then, the crisis engulfing Somalia has deteriorated dramatically while access to people in need continues to decrease; 360,000 people have been newly displaced and an additional half a million people are reliant on humanitarian assistance,” they said in a statement.

“There are now more than one million internally displaced people in Somalia. Intense conflict in Mogadishu continues to force an average of 20,000 people from their homes each month,” they added.

The Security Council has reviewed options for increased UN involvement in strife-torn Somalia but key members have ruled out an early deployment of a full-fledged peacekeeping force.

Options include relocating Nairobi-based UN personnel dealing with Somalia to Mogadishu; boosting the UN presence in the country; deploying up to 28,500 UN troops and police or sending an estimated 8,000-strong “stabilisation force.”

The aid agencies said that the plight of Somali civilians forced from their homes had been exacerbated by other factors.

“Record high food prices, hyper-inflation and drought in large parts of the country is leaving communities struggling to survive,” it said.

The report said families left in the capital Mogadishu or “the poorest of the poor who did not have the means to flee” earned 12.13 dollars a month on average.

“Assuming the average family size in Somalia is 6.9, this works out as 1.76 dollars per person per month — or six cents per person per day. This will buy someone three bread rolls.”

The humanitarian relief efforts have been exacerbated by lawlessness and rising insecurity, it warned.

“Attacks on, and killings of aid workers, the looting of relief supplies, and a lack of respect for international humanitarian law by all parties have left two million Somalis in need of basic humanitarian assistance.”

Six aid workers have been killed since 2008 prompting some agencies to pullout international staff from Somalia. Kidnapping incidents have also increased, they said.

Illegal checkpoints and roadblocks have from 147 in January 2007 to the current 396.

The report citing a UN evaluation as saying that “efforts to assist the people of Somalia have never been as restricted as they are now.”

It spoke of “administrative delays, restrictions or delays in movement of goods, targeting of humanitarian workers, targeting civil society and media, localised disputes/competition over resources, lack of will and/or ability by authorities to address security incidents within their control.”

Ethiopian forces who helped oust the Islamist militants early last year and are now deployed in Mogadishu have failed to stem the tide of violence that has choked humanitarian operations.

Early Wednesday, Islamists fighters briefly took control of Jowhar, looted government vehicles and offices and released prisoners.

“A woman, her child and four Somali government soldiers died in the fighting. I have seen their bodies and the Islamic fighters broke into the central jail and released prisoners,” said Said Abdulah, a resident.

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