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200,000 Flee Mogadishu Since End of October

There’s been another mass exodus from Mogadishu, as fighting and insecurity continue in the Somali capital.

Dawn Blalock is a UN humanitarian spokesperson. From Nairobi, she spoke to VOA English to Africa Service reporter Joe De Capua about the situation.

“There have been about 200,000 people who’ve left Mogadishu because of the ongoing security situation – the fighting, the shelling, the indiscriminate shooting. In the past three weeks, we estimate that about 60 percent of Mogadishu’s population, or roughly just about 600,000 people, have fled since the overall fighting started at the beginning of the year. But things have really intensified in the past three weeks and more than 200,000 people have left. Most of them have gone to an area called Afgooye, which is a corridor between Mogadishu and a town call Afgooye, about 30 kilometers away,” she says.

In Afgooye, there are about 70 settlements for IDPs, or internally displaced people. There are about 200,000 people who set up temporary shelter. Blalock says, “(They) are living under twig shacks covered with blankets.”

Asked whether the Afgooye area is now too crowded to help all in need, she says, “We’re doing what we can. The UN, the NGOs, who are working on the ground, the local Somali NGOs, there are a lot of agencies in there doing a variety of activities. There is ongoing food distribution. There is water trucking, so that they can get fresh water and potable water to drink, which is one of the most important challenges. They’re distributing non-food items, like plastic sheeting. When I was there on Monday it was pouring rain. So you can imagine if you’ve just fled with none of your belongings and you have nothing to hide under, with 200,000 people in one area, it’s a great risk of an outbreak, such as cholera.”

Humanitarian agencies are also digging latrines and setting of schools for displaced children. “That said,” she says, “it is not nearly what needs to be done.”

In two recent insecurity incidents, a prominent Somali woman activist was actually shot during a food distribution and later died of her wound. Also, a roadside bomb killed several members of an interim government convoy. Four civilians were killed in the shooting that followed.

In Mogadishu, there are reports now that entire neighborhoods are now empty of inhabitants due to the insecurity.