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Desperate Somalis Take Risks to Escape War, Poverty

Desperate Somalis Take Risks to Escape War, Poverty
Desperate Somalis Take Risks to Escape War, Poverty
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The United Nations refugee agency says security continues to deteriorate in Somalia. At the same time, it says poverty is increasing as prolonged drought is destroying ways to make a living in the country.

Instability and the devastating effects of prolonged drought are causing tens of thousands of Somalis to take to their feet in search of a safe refuge.

The U.N. refugee agency reports deadly clashes between government forces and rebel groups have forced about one-quarter of a million Somalis to flee the capital, Mogadishu since May.

It says most have sought refuge in the Afgooye corridor, some 30 kilometers west of Mogadishu. This area now is home to more than 534,000 internally displaced people.

While their security may be better, UNHCR spokesman Andrej Mahecic says their living conditions are deplorable. He says they are living in makeshift sites in squalid conditions.

And, he notes humanitarian organizations have great difficulty in reaching them with much needed assistance. He says thousands of other Somalis are exploring alternative escape routes.

"The deteriorating security situation and prolonged drought in Somalia are forcing more people to flee further a-field into the neighboring countries and beyond," said Mahecic. "Some of them are making the journey across the Gulf of Aden and the Red Sea trying to reach Yemen and the Mediterranean Sea to get to Europe."

Mahecic says not all of them make it to their destination.

"Last week, as reported, 16 people died and 49 others went missing, presumed drowned in the Gulf of Aden," he said. "Since January, a total of 924 boats and over 46,700 people have made the journey to Yemen from the Horn of Africa. So far this year, 322 others are known to have drowned or went missing at sea and are presumed dead."

Mahecic says thousands of desperate Somalis continue to risk their lives and use unscrupulous smugglers to make the perilous journey across the Gulf of Aden.

The UNHCR says Somalia is one of the world's biggest producers of refugees and internally displaced people. The agency provides protection and assistance to more than one-half million Somali refugees in the nearby countries of Kenya, Yemen, Ethiopia, Djibouti and Uganda.