A fresh eruption of fighting this week in the Somali capital, Mogadishu, has forced an estimated 8,200 people to flee the beleaguered coastal city, the UN refugee agency said here Sunday.
The combat between Ethiopian-backed Transitional Federal Government (TFG) forces and insurgents has killed a substantial number of civilians and reportedly wounded some 200 people, including women and children.
“The warring parties must put an end to this senseless violence,” said Guillermo Bettocchi, UNHCR’s Nairobi-based representative for Somalia, adding “they must refrain from further aggravating the already dire plight of innocent Somali civilians, who are the first victims of this unbearable situation.”
Eyewitnesses said more than a thousand families fled from their homes in two neighbourhoods in the north of Mogadishu following heavy shelling of residential areas, placing civilians at great risk.
Among the scores of civilians reportedly killed or wounded over the past few days were worshipers executed in a place of worship, sparking fresh fears and a renewed exodus of civilians from the city.
Many of those fleeing the capital have sought safety in the bush or on the road leading to the small town of Afgooye, 30 kilometres to the west, which has more than 250,000 displaced civilians already living in precarious conditions.
Most of the people escaped fighting in Mogadishu in 2007.
UNHCR staff reported that since Thursday, the fighting has receded and even stopped in Mogadishu, as people continued to leave the town, but in reduced numbers, compared to previous days.
The exodus from the war-ravaged city has further aggravated the situation in a country where more than one million people are internally displaced.
Some 700,000 of them fled Mogadishu last year alone.
The latest violence also prevents the internally displaced people living in areas surrounding the city from returning to their homes.
International aid agencies, including UNHCR, are already encountering serious se curity obstacles in reaching the affected populations to provide them with the protection and assistance they need, the agency said.
In addition to the recurrent violence, aid workers regularly face problems at checkpoints, including demands for money.
As soon as security allows, the agency will make another round of aid distribution in the out-lying settlements along the Mogadishu-Afgooye road, which will benefit up to14,000 families, or about 84,000 people.
The first phase of the distribution is planned for next week and will target 7,000 families, including the most vulnerable ones.
Much needed household items such as sleeping mats, blankets, jerry cans and plastic sheets will be distributed.