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Red Cross Boosting Aid to Somalia

The International Committee of the Red Cross said it is increasing its aid to hundreds of thousands of destitute people in Somalia. It said drought, floods and the effects of 17 years of armed conflict and lawlessness have taken a terrible toll on the population.

The International Committee of the Red Cross has been providing hundreds of thousands of Somalis with food, water and other aid. Last year, it distributed food aid to nearly one-half million people.

ICRC Spokeswoman, Anna Schaaf, told VOA this aid will continue and even increase because of the deteriorating humanitarian situation in the country. She said hundreds of thousands of Somalis are not able to feed themselves without outside support.

She said the agency will provide other emergency assistance such as clean drinking water and shelter.

"And, we do have a lot of medical programs in Somalia. We do, for example, support the two main hospitals in Mogadishu who are receiving lots of the war wounded in the capital. They are Keysaney and Medina Hospitals where there are Somali surgeons working, but the ICRC is regularly supplying medicine and medical material," she said.

Schaaf said people in Somalia have become almost completely dependent on international aid because of the fighting, the drought and flood. In addition, she said the world economic crisis is making it difficult for people to buy food, travel or engage in trade.

The intense fighting that resulted in displacing hundreds of thousands of people in Somalia has subsided. For now, the fighting is sporadic. But, Schaaf said civilian casualties are an ongoing concern, particularly in urban areas.

She said in a densely populated area, it is more difficult to ensure the safety of civilians, who often are caught in the crossfire.

"Also, the problem there is that people who are not wounded do not have direct access to medical care. So, sometimes as it is too dangerous to actually bring the wounded people to the hospitals or other medical facilities, they need to wait until the fighting is over and can then actually go to the hospitals. So sometimes, they have gunshot wounds that are two, three, four days old and that are a lot more difficult to treat then if they would be treated immediately," she said.

Schaaf said the ICRC is one of the few organizations that still is working in Somalia. She said it is able to go to conflict-affected communities in remote areas because of its good contacts with the various warring parties.