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UN Refugee Agency Sends Aid to Somali Town


The U.N. refugee agency says it has sent medical and relief supplies to a small Somali town near the Kenyan border, the destination of many people fleeing violence and instability in Somalia. Cathy Majtenyi reports for VOA from Nairobi.

Two truckloads of intravenous fluids, antibiotics, sleeping mats and other supplies rolled into the Somali town of Dobley, 18 kilometers from the Kenyan border.

About 4,000 Somalis have moved into the town this month. Most were escaping heavy fighting between transitional government forces and insurgents late last month in the capital, Mogadishu. The fighting killed up to 1,000 people, injured thousands, and displaced another 200,000 people.

A spokeswoman for the U.N. refugee agency, Millicent Mutuli, tells VOA many of the new arrivals are ill.

"We have reports of people continuing to suffer from diarrhea," she said. "We notice the numbers have really gone up. Just a few days ago, there were 19 people in an isolation camp, and as of yesterday or the day, before there were 36. NGOs [aid groups] say that they have run out of medical supplies, which is why, even within the relief supplies that we sent, we did add some medical supplies and medicines."

Mutuli says the arrival of so many people in such a short time has put a strain on Dobley. She says the rainy season has made the distribution of shelter materials vital.

Ethiopian troops first entered Somalia in December to help the transitional government oust the Islamic Courts Union. In the first few weeks of this year, neighboring Kenya was swamped with a huge influx of refugees fleeing the fighting in Somalia. Many refugees crossed into Kenya from Dobley, causing the Kenyan government to close the border.

Mutuli says this latest influx into Dobley is not necessarily because people think they can cross into Kenya.

"People are going away from areas that are congested," she said. "Immediately after the flare-up of conflict in Mogadishu, a lot of people left and went into the Shabelle region [to] towns like Afgoye and Marka, and these towns are very, very crowded. So what has happened is people are moving further and further away from these towns and they are going to areas where they think there is a likelihood of some assistance. Towns like Dobley present that opportunity."

Since Somalia's civil war broke out in 1991, militias loyal to clan and sub clan-based factions have controlled different parts of the country, with no central authority to provide law and order and basic services.

A transitional Somali parliament was formed in Kenya more than two years ago following a peace process.

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