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Somalia: UN official concerned by lack of aid access to conflict zone

Somalia: UN official concerned by lack of aid access to conflict zone

As fighting in Baidoa, Somalia, continues to cut off much needed humanitarian assistance, a United Nations official today voiced concern at the worsening conditions and appealed for urgent safe access to the area.

"I am gravely concerned for the welfare of the people of Baidoa," said the UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator for Somalia, Maxwell Gaylard. "Since fighting erupted in July 2002, access to the area has been extremely limited. As a result, civilians have been displaced several times over and aid activities ranging from food distribution to health services have been seriously disrupted."

UN international staff and other non-governmental organizations (NGOs) have been forced to curtail services since the chair of the Rahanweyn Resistance Army (RRA), Hassan Mohamed Nur, and RRA deputies Sheikh Aden Madobe and Ibrahim Habsade began wrestling over control of Baidoa.

The instability has spawned a wave of banditry and targeted killings. Aid vehicles are often looted or attacked with landmines, forcing them to take circuitous routes or abandon the missions. The situation is particularly worrying as residents are now facing water shortages with the dry season underway.

"The situation is dire," the UN Resident Coordinator said, appealing to the warring factions to end fighting and allow aid to reach those in need. "The international humanitarian community must urgently be allowed safe and unhindered access to the area so that we may fully assess and respond to the deteriorating situation."

The impact of the unrest is also felt beyond Baidoa, Mr. Gaylard said. The loss of the town as an operational and supply base for aid agencies, as well as a hub for UN flights has made it difficult to implement and coordinate activities throughout the rest of southern and central Somalia.