Somali clashes taking shocking toll on civilians, says UN refugee agency

A group of IDPs in Mogadishu

16 April 2010 – The United Nations refugee agency today voiced its shock after more than 30 people, including children, were reported to have been killed by this week’s clashes in Mogadishu which residents of the strife-torn Somali capital have described as some of the worst in months.

“It is unacceptable that the conflict in Somalia continues to be conducted without respect for the safety of civilians and in clear violation of international humanitarian and human rights principles,” Melissa Fleming, spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), told reporters in Geneva.

The agency urged parties to the conflict to avoid targeting civilian facilities and heavily populated areas of Mogadishu which already shelter more than 300,000 internally displaced people (IDPs).

The latest violence in Mogadishu, where Government forces and their supporters have been fighting Islamic militant rebel groups, has displaced at least 500 people, according to information received by UNHCR.

More than 100,000 people have been displaced from or within Mogadishu so far this year, with most having fled to the relative safety of IDP camps in the Afgooye corridor some 30 kilometres west of the capital.

With 1.4 million IDPs, some 570,000 refugees in the region and nearly 3 million people dependent on humanitarian aid, Somalia is one of the worst humanitarian crises in the world, the agency pointed out.

Ms. Fleming noted that persistent fighting and generalized violence makes it dangerous and difficult for aid agencies to access and provide humanitarian assistance to the vulnerable and needy.

Local sources told UNHCR that medical facilities are having difficulties coping with the many wounded in the fighting in Mogadishu. Earlier this week, the World Health Organization (Somalia: UN agency trains health-care workers in trauma, obstetric surgery

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