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Red Cross: Life in Mogadishu Remains Precarious


The International Committee of the Red Cross says the situation in Mogadishu, the Somali capital has calmed somewhat since the intensification of fighting last week. Nevertheless, it says dangers persist and lack of security is causing difficulties in providing aid. Lisa Schlein reports for VOA from ICRC headquarters in Geneva.

The International Committee of the Red Cross says the recent fighting between insurgents and Ethiopian-backed Somali government forces has taken a heavy toll.

It reports at least 12,000 people fled their homes in panic to safer areas in Mogadishu or in the outskirts, which already are overflowing with displaced people.

It says scores of people have been killed and the city's two hospitals remain overwhelmed by the influx of casualties, resulting from the conflict. It says more than 140 wounded people were admitted.

Red Cross spokeswoman, Anna Schaafe, tells VOA the heavy fighting prevented many other injured people from obtaining urgently needed medical care.

"The hospitals are coping and now they do have enough supplies to treat the wounded," she explained. "But, the fact is that there are only a few surgeons working there and these surgeons need to take care of all these wounded. So, it is difficult because they cannot treat everyone at the same time. They were working 24 hours a day last week and it was a very difficult situation for them."

The Red Cross is providing medical supplies for the two hospitals in Mogadishu, which between them have treated more than 2200 casualties since January.

Schaafe says the Red Cross recently has begun to support five temporary Somali Red Crescent Society primary health care clinics on the outskirts of Mogadishu. These clinics, she says care for more than 200,000 people who have fled the capital during the past months.

She says it is difficult for aid workers to reach all the people in need of assistance.

"It is dangerous. And, it needs careful assessment of the security situation every time," she said. "It needs a lot of flexibility for our staff to decide really at the last moment where it is safe today to go and where they can go and where they cannot go."

In the past four months, Schaafe says the Red Cross has been providing food for more than one-half million displaced people and their host families. She says the agency also has distributed essential items such as shelter material, kitchen sets, blankets and clothing to 420,000 people.

The ICRC has been providing humanitarian aid for the Somali population since 1977.

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