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Ensure safe movement for aid workers, gov’t urged

Wednesday, March 28, 2007


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NAIROBI, 28 March 2007 (IRIN) - Somali civil society organisations have urged the government to help aid workers reach thousands of desperate civilians displaced by recent violence in the capital, Mogadishu.


"We met the Minister of Interior [Mohamed Mohamud Guleed] and requested the government to allow the unconditional movement of aid agencies and their workers to assist the needy people," said Abdinasir Ahmed Usman, head of a civil society taskforce that is assisting internally displaced persons.


"We have also requested the opening of all airstrips to aid agencies in order for them to have access to the displaced," he added.


The taskforce estimates that at least 30,000 people are living rough outside the city, without food, water and shelter, after fleeing ongoing exchanges of gunfire between Ethiopian-backed government troops and unidentified gunmen - a daily occurrence in the city.


Separately, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) in Somalia said it had requested the government to allow humanitarian access to airstrips close to the displaced.


"Given the rising population [of displaced people] in areas surrounding Mogadishu, humanitarian access to K50 [50km south of Mogadishu] airstrip is becoming increasingly urgent," OCHA said in a statement. "K50 has been inaccessible from early January. On numerous occasions, the UN has requested of the TFG [Transitional Federal Government] immediate use of K50 for humanitarian flights but is still awaiting an answer."


Civil society leaders said displaced people in Lafole and Ceelasha area, south of Mogadishu, were reportedly running out of water and food.


These are two small villages and they cannot cope with the number of people who have moved there in the last month," said Madina Mahamud Ilmi, deputy head of the taskforce.


She said many of the displaced had found shelter in Lafole teacher training college and others were sheltering in a former orphanage. However, "the majority are sleeping under trees or have set up temporary camp in the open".


With the long rains approaching, she added, many of the displaced weakened by lack of adequate food and water could succumb to diseases.


"They are already suffering from diarrhoea and if they are not helped now we may be looking at the making of a catastrophe," she said. Because of water shortages, people were not


Usman said members of civil society were asking the government to provide "adequate security to all agencies including the civil society groups who are aiding the IDPs".


Both Usman and Ilmi expressed optimism that the government would open the airstrips and allow aid agencies access to the affected populations. "We are waiting for a positive response today [Wednesday] or tomorrow [Thursday]," said Usman. "The minister promised to take the matter up with the cabinet and give a response soon."


"We need to do everything we can before the Gu rains [April-June] start," Ilmi said. "We are appealing to the international community, particularly the UN, to come as soon as access is allowed."


A local journalist who visited the area said it was overcrowded, and sanitation and hygiene were "terrible" since there were no toilets and latrines.




Theme(s): (IRIN) Conflict, (IRIN) Early Warning, (IRIN) Refugees/IDPs




Source: IRIN, Mar 28, 2007


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