The UN refugee agency says it hopes to begin distributing 28 tons of relief supplies over the weekend to thousands of Somalis displaced by the fighting in the capital, Mogadishu. Most of those in need have fled the city.
Catherine Weibel is a spokesperson for the UNHCR. From Nairobi, she spoke to VOA English to Africa Service reporter Joe De Capua about the aid operation for Somalia.
“Because of the very difficult security situation in Mogadishu, it’s not possible to airlift supplies directly there. So UNHCR is airlifting relief supplies to Baidoa, which is a town 200 kilometers northwest of Mogadishu. And we will truck all this aid down to Afgooye, which is a town about 30 kilometers away from Mogadishu where many people have gone when they were fleeing Mogadishu,” she says.
The aid consists of plastic sheeting, jerry cans, kitchen sets and blankets. This will enable many people to build temporary shelters, especially with the likelihood of rain in April. Thousands of people are just living along the sides of roads. Weibel says, “They are very afraid of the coming rains because they don’t know what will happen to their children.”
Large numbers of people have left Mogadishu. “We estimate that almost 130,000 have fled the Somali capital since February first, which is when the fighting first began,” she says. People continue to leave despite a shaky ceasefire over the past 10 days. Most of the displaced, about 90,000, are in the Shabelle regions surrounding the city, hoping to return if and when security takes hold.
Weibel says the town of Afgooye has become so crowded that people have a difficult time “finding a place to sit,” let alone finding food or water. As a result, many have traveled father to Baidoa. “We estimate that up to 4,000 have arrived in Baidoa and there are still people coming every day,” she says.”
Smaller numbers are heading for Doble on the Kenyan border. “In the town and around, all the prices of housing, water and food have increased, which makes it very difficult for them to live,” she says. There is also an outbreak of diarrhea there, which is especially risky for young children.