Insecurity Slows Efforts To Aid Displaced Somalis
Insecurity hindering efforts to aid displaced Somalis, says UN relief official
5 March 2008 – Deteriorating security in Somalia in recent months has made it more difficult for aid workers to assist hundreds of thousands of people uprooted by fighting in the strife-torn nation, a senior United Nations relief official said today.
The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) says there are now more than 200,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) who have fled the fighting in the capital, Mogadishu, and set up shelters along the 15-kilometre route from the city to Afgooye.
About 25,000 people per month have been displaced from Mogadishu in January and February, bringing the total number of those needing assistance in the country to between 1.8 million and 2 million, according to OCHA.
"Somalia is the most difficult place in the world for humanitarians to do their job, due to the ever-shifting insecurity," noted William Paton, the acting UN Humanitarian and Resident Coordinator there.
Rising insecurity has forced the cancellation of several missions to Afgooye in February. In addition, there are nearly 400 checkpoints around the country where humanitarian convoys are often subject to threats and violence. There have been nine shooting incidents at checkpoints in the first two months of this year alone.
"We are going to continue to work hard to improve security for our staff members and thus deliver more," stated Mr. Paton, who recently visited some of the more than 100 settlements that have sprung up along the road to Afgooye.
Amid the difficulties, UN agencies and their partners are continuing to provide food, water and other vital supplies to the affected populations throughout the country, which has not had a functioning government since 1991. In addition, some 56,000 children and 11,200 pregnant mothers have been immunised and mobile clinics are providing maternal and child health services.
Meanwhile, OCHA reports that some 850,000 Somalis in the country's central regions - including some 170,000 IDPs - are suffering the consequences of a prolonged drought that is threatening livestock and the livelihoods of pastoralists.
High rates of acute malnutrition and possible disease outbreaks due to water scarcity are among the major concerns right now. UN agencies are trucking in water and have already handed out 4,300 tons of food to around 230,000 people.