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UN: Significant Humanitarian Achievements Evident in Somalia

A United Nations aid official says that although Somalia's civilian population continues to face an acute crisis, there have been several significant achievements in areas such as health and nutrition.

Mark Bowden, the United Nations Humanitarian Coordinator for Somalia, says the situation in Somalia is not all bad news. For example, he points to the fact that Somalia is free of polio, despite the resurgence of the disease elsewhere in Africa. He says 1.3 million people have been provided clean water; child vaccinations continue, even in areas occupied by insurgent groups; and 1.8 million people have received food assistance. In addition, says Bowden, rains in Somalia have been good this year, after five years of drought.

On the negative side of the ledger, the U.N. official says 200,000 people have been displaced this year by the fighting in Somalia. And, he says, there is considerable concern for the civilian population in Mogadishu, Somalia's capital.

"The civilians bear the main brunt of the current conflict," said Mark Bowden. "There is both extensive shelling and mortar fire by all parties to the conflict, the use of improvised explosive devices, which are indiscriminate in their effects on the population. And since March this year, there have been more than 3,000 conflict-related casualties of civilians reported."

Bowden says he hopes for some way to reduce the impact of the conflict in Somalia on its civilian population. He says it is important to find funding to sustain what he calls a "remarkable humanitarian achievement" in Somalia. Bowden says funding has been reduced this year and that there are funding gaps in areas such as health, water and sanitation as well as nutrition.