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UN Warns War in Somalia Could Stop Flood Aid


The United Nations has asked for funding and equipment to help an estimated 350,000 Somalis displaced by recent flooding there. But U.N. officials warned that rescue efforts could also be put in jeopardy if war resumes in the volatile country. Cathy Majtenyi reports for VOA from Nairobi.

Heavy rains continue to pound Somalia, washing away whole villages and cutting communities off from the rest of the country.

Hardest hit has been the Lower Juba Valley, where cases of suspected cholera are beginning to emerge.

The United Nations' Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator for Somalia, Eric Laroche, told reporters his agency has just hired four helicopters to deliver aid to Somalia and neighboring Kenya, which has also been hit hard by flooding.

But, he says, there are fears that rescue efforts could be put in severe jeopardy if war were to resume in Somalia.

"If you take a helicopter today and you fly over Somalia, it's likely that you're going to be anxious to go back to your base, because when you fly with a helicopter, you fly quite low,” he noted. “There are people now that have all interest to get the U.N. into trouble in Somalia. But the consequence of that to happen is, even if you are shot at and you are not killed, the consequence is the whole operation is going to be stopped, and that is obviously going to have major consequences to the life of these people."

Laroche was referring to rising tensions in Somalia between the transitional government and the Islamic Courts Union, which has been expanding its territory in mostly southern Somalia since June.

Ever since the breakdown of peace talks recently, fears are escalating that all-out war could break out between the two sides.

Laroche said he was also concerned about Thursday's motion in Ethiopia's parliament, where Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi called for his government to use force to repel any attacks by the Islamic Courts Union, which has levied a Holy War against Ethiopia.

The U.N. resident coordinator says the two rival groups, however, have agreed to form a joint committee to coordinate the flood response.

The aid agency has called for about $6 million to fund non-food items such as shelter materials and airdrops of food and other supplies.

Officials estimate that it could cost about $15 million to cope with the situation.