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UNICEF: Security Continues to Worsen in Mogadishu

The U.N. Children's Fund says the security situation in Mogadishu, the capital of Somalia is continuing to deteriorate. Lisa Schlein reports for VOA from Geneva.

The U.N. Children's Fund says it is becoming more difficult to provide humanitarian assistance to hundreds of thousands of people in Somalia.

It reports, since October fighting between the transitional government and rebels has caused 200,000 people to flee Mogadishu. This brings the number of people who have fled the capital this year to about 600,000.

In an interview from Nairobi, UNICEF Emergency Communication Officer Misbah Sheikh tells VOA it is the children and women who are the main victims of this war.

"If you consider this year alone, UNICEF has confirmed reports that 31 children died on their way to school," Sheikh said. "So, something as common as going to school has become a deadly activity. We also have reports of women being raped as they are fleeing Mogadishu, within Mogadishu. This is a subject of concern ... because we are not able to work in Mogadishu as we would like to, we are not able to address this."

Sheikh says malnutrition among children has risen above emergency levels.

She says an estimated 200,000 people who fled Mogadishu are living in overcrowded camps along the route to Afgooye, a small town west of the capital.

She says sanitation, water, and food is a problem there, but some aid is getting through.

"UNICEF is working with our partners to ensure that latrines are being constructed," she said. "Just recently this week 100 latrines are being constructed for residents in some of these IDP [internally displaced people] camps. We have about one-half-million liters of water that gets to over 50,000 people every day ... We have feeding centers. We have health centers that are taking care of malnourished children."

UNICEF reports one of its main warehouses in Mogadishu was looted Monday and supplies worth more than $1.5 million were taken.

But in a rare bit of good luck, UNICEF says the stolen goods have been retrieved.