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Aid Agencies Rush to Help 320,000 Displaced Somalis

Over 320,000 people have now fled Mogadishu since the beginning of February to escape the ongoing fighting. And it’s been very difficult for humanitarian agencies to reach all those in need.

Catherine Weibel is a spokesperson for the UN refugee agency, the UNHCR. From Nairobi, she told VOA English to Africa Service reporter Joe De Capua where the hundreds of thousands of displaced Somalis are going.

“Most of the people who are fleeing Mogadishu are still going to the very close by provinces of the Shabelle, which are around the capital…the people who are leaving now are the most destitute and they just don’t know where to go. So, they just walk as long as they can and they stop quite close to the capital,” she says.

However, others have gone to the town of Afgooye, west of the capital. The UNHCR estimates their number at 41,000. “UNHCR began distributing aid to these people last Thursday and it’s still distributing today. But two days ago it was a little difficult because the road, which links Mogadishu to the town of Afgooye, 30 kilometers away, was closed from time to time…there are so many people in Afgooye that its very difficult to convince people to wait in line and that there’s going to be aid for everyone,” she says.

Asked whether there’s enough aid for all 41,000 in Afgooye at this time, Weibel says, “So far, we have helped about 20,000 people and we are this week bringing more aid for about 15,000 people.” Many she says are traumatized by the fighting, the deaths of loved ones or missing children.

She says that the UNHCR recently learned that nearly 110,000 people have gone to the Galgadud region and another 38,000 to Mudug, which are “further northwest of Mogadishu.” She says because of the crowded conditions, many people can’t even find a tree to sit under to protect them from the sun.