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UN voices concern about humanitarian access in Somalia

UN voices concern about humanitarian access in Somalia

With factional armed conflict again on the rise to levels not seen in years in key locations throughout Somalia, the United Nations today voiced its concern about humanitarian access to vulnerable communities caught in the fighting.

Speaking at a press briefing in Geneva, the UN’s top relief official for Somalia said the world body would continue to work with Somali communities where peace and security permitted, and to help Somalis reconstruct their livelihoods.

"The sanctity of the UN flag - and all that it stands for in terms of peace and development - must be restored so that vital humanitarian assistance can be delivered where it is most needed," said Maxwell Gaylard, the UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator for Somalia. "The UN is urging faction leaders to talk rather than fight, in the interest of the Somali people."

In Mogadishu, a current wave of crime – notably kidnappings – has made work in the city difficult, according to Mr. Gaylard, who noted that three UN national staff had been abducted and eventually released in the past six months.

Meanwhile in the southwestern town of Baidoa, intermittent but heavy fighting took place in late July and early August, forcing the temporary evacuation of staff, while in southwestern Gedo region, the laying of landmines during clan fighting has hampered access to parts of the drought-stricken region.

While some regions of Somalia have become more difficult to access in recent months, others - notably the northwest - have been peaceful and enjoying that "peace dividend" by benefiting from not just humanitarian aid, but also recovery and development assistance, Mr. Gaylard said.

The UN, which appealed for some $83 million in funding for Somalia for 2002, has as of August received just over 40 per cent of that amount. Many urgent needs remain unmet, especially in the protection and security sector, education, economic recovery, and coordination.