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Somalia Humanitarian Crisis Worsens

While efforts continue to encourage peace and reconciliation efforts in Somalia, the violence goes on and the humanitarian crisis worsens. VOA correspondent Alisha Ryu is in the Somali capital, Mogadishu. Speaking to English to Africa Service reporter Joe De Capua, she compares her current visit to Mogadishu to those of the past.

“I would say the situation has become a lot worse. I was here about eight months ago and even then I felt that the situation was deteriorating quite a bit. This time I really get a sense of real hopelessness and people wondering if there’s ever going to be an end to all the problems that the city is facing. In addition to the humanitarian crisis, you have problems of insecurity. You have problems with people not having access to clean drinking water and hygiene. You have problems with the government that’s not functioning. So, there are multi-layers of trouble that need to be solved and I think that just people are overwhelmed by the magnitude of what they’re facing,” she says.

Ryu says the city is dangerous for Western journalists, especially the northern part of Mogadishu, where she says the insurgency is “raging.” She says Ethiopian troops have, in a sense, established a “green zone” in the southern part of the city to make it relatively safe for them. “The rest of the city is kind of a no go zone for a lot of us now,” she says.

The VOA correspondent visited a camp for the displaced in the town of Afgooye, some 20 kilometers north of Mogadishu, where many of the displaced city residents have gone. “When I was there about eight months ago, there were about 3,500 families…and there are now more than 9,000,” she says, an increase of about 60,000 people. In fact she says Afgooye has basically become part of Mogadishu because there are huts all along the road connecting the capital and town.

Ryu says humanitarian agencies tell of killings of aid workers and the looting of aid trucks. She witnessed one incident where, even before a truck was able to stop and unload its supply of food aid, hundreds of hungry, displaced people took all of the contents. “That’s called looting…. You can’t really blame these people. They’re hungry. They’re starving and they want food,” she says.

The veteran journalist, whose assignments have also included Iraq, says Somalia is the worst humanitarian crisis she’s seen.