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UNHCR Says 90,000 Fled Recent Fighting In Somalia's Capital


U.N. refugee agency says the situation in Somalia's capital, Mogadishu, has calmed down, but remains volatile. It says 90,000 people fled the recent fighting between Ethiopian troops, backing the transitional government, and insurgents. Lisa Schlein reports for VOA from Geneva that the UNHCR says it fears more people are likely to flee the city.

The U.N. refugee agency reports the fighting on Saturday, Sunday and Monday was the worst in months. The fighting is over for now, but the UNHCR says the situation in Mogadishu remains volatile and tense. It says people are living in fear.

UNHCR Spokeswoman Jennifer Pagonis says more than half of the 90,000 people who fled the capital over the past week have settled along the road linking Mogadishu to Afgooye, some 30 kilometers to the west. She says there are already about 100,000 displaced people in Afgooye who fled the capital earlier in the year.

"So, the latest number of people who fled to that area, about 47,000, have joined those 100,000 displaced already," said Pagonis. "So, they are now crammed into the little huts and things, which have sprung up all around the road linking the capital with Afgooye. So, they are now squeezed into these tiny little huts. There is a lack of food, sanitation, water, all of the basic necessities of life."

The World Food Program says it has been distributing more than 2,500 tons of food to the newly displaced living in 27 different spots along the road to Afgooye.

WFP Spokeswoman Christiane Berthiaume says people are receiving the equivalent of one month's supply of food. She says most of the displaced are women and children, many of whom are now living with relatives who fled Mogadishu earlier in the year.

She says WFP has not yet resumed the distribution of food in Mogadishu. That was suspended after the head of WFP in the city was detained by the transitional government last month.

"But, we are going to start, what we call, a wet food program for 50,000 people suffering from malnutrition, following an agreement that we have signed with a Somali NGO [non-governmental organization]," said Berthiaume.

The UNHCR reports 450,000 people fled Mogadishu this year. This brings the total number of internally displaced people in Somalia to an estimated 850,000.

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