As the fighting continues in Somalia, the United Nations humanitarian work there has been disrupted and UN personnel are being evacuated. From Nairobi, Eric Laroche, UN resident and humanitarian coordinator for Somalia, spoke to VOA English to Africa Service reporter Joe De Capua about the effect of the fighting.
“The effect is simple: we had to withdraw all of the international staff from South and Central Somalia. We still had yesterday some 15 international staff in Jowhar and particularly Kismayo, where we had a big operation with the helicopters for the floods in the lower Juba. We were asked by the Islamists, the governor of Kismayo, we were asked to leave on the spot, almost. I think the governor wanted to ensure our security. Because the situation was not secure enough, we decided to withdraw the national staff. Jowhar we did the same. There are still some international NGOs who need to be rescued tomorrow,” he says.
The UN official says first floods, then war. “This war is happening in the same area where the victims of the floods were. It is in the two valleys, the Shabelle river valley and the Juba river valley, so in these two areas, 454,000 people were affected directly or indirectly by the floods and therefore they needed to have not only immediate relief assistance, such as plastic sheeting, water, sanitation and many other items such as food and medical assistance. That obviously had to stop because of the war. The other side effect, obviously, is the direct effect of the war, which is the number of casualties,” he says. He says that at least 800 people are reported wounded, adding probably hundreds have been killed.