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Number of Displaced from Somali Capital Could Soon Reach 700,000

While much attention is focused on Kenya right now, the situation in neighboring Somalia remains violent and people continue to flee the capital, Mogadishu.

Catherine Weibel is a spokesperson for the UN refugee agency, the UNHCR. From Nairobi, she gave VOA English to Africa Service reporter Joe De Capua an update on conditions in Somalia.

“Well, over the past weeks, people did go on leaving Mogadishu. Of course the number of people leaving [is] much smaller than before, but there are still people leaving the city everyday. And the problem is that there are still skirmishes in different parts of the town. And of course when it comes close to the houses of people they prefer to leave,” she says.

She estimates about 600,000 people have left Mogadishu in the past year and expects that number to approach 700,000 in the coming weeks.

“Most of the people are still in Afgooye, which is about 30 kilometers west of Mogadishu. And they receive aid from different agencies, including UNHCR, which has distributed quite a number of non-food items…and of course the people are very frustrated. Because the people who work for UNHCR in Mogadishu and Afgooye tell me that the people…are still hoping to go back to their houses. Because they are very afraid that their meager property might be looted. And they would really like to go back to the capital, but nothing is changing. There is still a lot of instability and violence and they can’t do anything. So, of course they are very depressed,” she says.

The displaced in Afgooye are receiving daily aid, including food, water and material to build shelters. But Weibel says they are “really suffering psychologically.”