17 February 2012 The United Nations refugee agency today voiced fears for the safety of thousands of people who have fled fresh violence near the Somali capital, Mogadishu, and urged all armed groups to ensure the safety of civilians.
In the last two weeks, over 7,200 Somalis have been forced to flee the Afgooye corridor, a 40-kilometre stretch of road just north-west of Mogadishu that is home to almost 410,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) living in sprawling settlements and makeshift camps, according to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).
More than 5,200 of the 7,200 people who have fled did so in the past three days following new clashes that erupted on Tuesday.
“UNHCR fears for the safety of the displaced and we urge all armed groups and forces to make the protection of civilians a priority,” an agency spokesperson, Melissa Fleming, told reporters in Geneva.
A majority of the newly displaced are people who have been displaced previously and were living in the Afgooye corridor to escape insecurity in Mogadishu and elsewhere in Somalia. Most of them are now heading towards Mogadishu.
“UNHCR, together with other agencies, will be urgently scaling up assistance to provide shelter, food and water,” said Ms. Fleming.
Some 1.3 million people are internally displaced within Somalia, while more than 968,000 Somalis live as refugees in neighbouring countries, primarily in Kenya (520,000), Yemen (203,000) and Ethiopia (186,000).
Somalia remains “one of the worst and most alarming” humanitarian crises that UNHCR faces, generating the largest number of refugees and displaced in the world after Afghanistan and Iraq, Ms. Fleming noted.
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