As long as the fighting continues in Somalia, relief operations are unable to keep up with the humanitarian crisis that’s emerging.
Philippe Lazzerini is the head of office for Somalia at the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, or OCHA. From Nairobi, he gave VOA English to Africa Service reporter Joe De Capua an overview of the relief operations.
“Right now we are speaking about 350,000 people who have fled Mogadishu, which is almost one-third of the population. Many others haven’t been able to flee Mogadishu just because they did not have the means. Currently, the priority needs for these people are very much related to water, to health.
“We have currently an acute watery diarrhea outbreak, which has already affected about 17,000 people and caused at least the deaths of more than 600 people. Besides that, the people are also in need of shelter. And we are on the eve of the rainy season and we might expect also some…new floods. There’s also food assistance being required,” he says.
Lazzerini says the problems he’s outlined relate to those who’ve been displaced. It’s been difficult to ascertain the needs of Somalis in Mogadishu who’s been trapped by the fighting.
“We have the two main hospitals that have reported since the beginning of the year more than 1,000 war wounded,” he says. The OCHA official says that recent fierce fighting has led to hundreds of people being wounded daily.
UN and other agencies have been helping to distribute water, cholera kits, plastic sheeting and other supplies. However, food distribution has been very slow or non-existent in areas due to insecurity along the roads.
Lazzerini is calling on the warring parties to allow humanitarian agencies access to the displaced, as well as those in Mogadishu.