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Somalis Continue to Flee Violence in Mogadishu


The U.N. refugee agency says it has begun distributing much-needed relief supplies for some 24,000 people in the Somali town of Afgooye, 30 kilometers west of the capital Mogadishu. The UNHCR reports families are still fleeing Mogadishu every day due to an increase in violence. Lisa Schlein reports for VOA from UNHCR headquarters in Geneva.

The U.N. refugee agency describes the situation in Mogadishu as chaotic, with people desperate to leave the capital.

It says thousands of people have fled their homes as the fighting and violence in Mogadishu has escalated over the past two weeks.

The UNHCR reports nearly 65,000 people have fled Mogadishu since the beginning of June. And, more than 40,000 of them have gone to Afgooye.

U.N. refugee spokeswoman, Jennifer Pagonis, says the town is overcrowded and living conditions are deplorable.

"Our staff are now reporting that along the road from Mogadishu there are 22 settlements that have sprung up by families who fled the capital earlier in the year. And, they are now feeling the burden of this recent influx of new arrivals," she said. "They say that sometimes people are so numerous that they are blocking the road. Many are families who cannot afford the cost of transportation further afield. Others want to remain close to the city and hope to return as soon as the violence ceases. And, other people just go back to the city during the day to try and earn a living."

Pagonis says people are still fleeing Mogadishu every day due to an increase in violence. This week, she says the Somali Transitional Federal Government ordered residents of three northern districts in the capital to leave their houses.

The TFG claims they were supporting the insurgents, following the death of several soldiers and a commander.

Pagonis says Mogadishu residents have started using an alternative road to flee the city as the road to Afgooye is clogged with people. She says new settlements have sprung up along this road. She says living conditions there are very precarious. Water is not being trucked into the area and shelter material is not available.

"Mogadishu is becoming divided into two parts. The northern part becoming increasingly deserted as there are clashes between the TFG forces and insurgents and the southern part of the city calm," she said. "So, while some people have fled the city and got out of it, others have moved to the southern part where they have relatives. But, they fear that the fighting might spread into that area as well."

Pagonis describes the streets of northern Mogadishu as desolate. She says the Bakara market, which used to be one of the biggest in East Africa, is barely functioning. She says the lack of commerce severely threatens the local economy. She says people remaining in the capital say daily life has become unbearable.