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UN appeals for end to suffering as thousands flee deadly fighting in Somalia’s capital

UN appeals for end to suffering as thousands flee deadly fighting in Somalia’s capital

With almost 100,000 people having fled Somalia’s capital over the past two months because of deadly fighting, the United Nations today repeated its call for all sides in the conflict to end the suffering and allow emergency assistance to get through to those in need, warning that obstructing relief aid violates international humanitarian law.

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) in Somalia said in a press release it hopes the “tenuous calm” in Mogadishu since yesterday will hold so as to enable humanitarian partners to assist civilians and the displaced, adding that 47,000 people have fled the indiscriminate shelling in the capital in the last 12 days alone.

“All parties are urged to take all the necessary measures to prevent unnecessary human suffering. Any deliberate attempts to prevent wounded and/or civilians from receiving assistance and protection are intolerable, and in gross violation of international humanitarian law,” OCHA said.

In recent days, indiscriminate heavy artillery and mortar shells have rained down on the city hitting residential areas and resulting in a large but unknown number of deaths and casualties. A hospital was reportedly hit on 30 March, killing one person and injuring others, while other health facilities are saturated with patients. Trapped by the fighting, many wounded are unable to get medical help and lie unattended in the streets.

Since the beginning of February, almost 100,000 people have fled Mogadishu due to the fighting and the number of displaced continues to increase daily. Lack of access to the city and its surroundings due to the bloodshed has severely hampered humanitarian agencies from scaling up the response to meet the vast needs.

Last Thursday, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called for an immediate end to the fighting, saying he was “particularly concerned about the use of air strikes and the introduction of tanks and heavy artillery into densely populated parts of the city, further increasing the security threat to large numbers of civilians.”

Violence in the capital has increased since the Transitional Federal Government (TFG), backed by Ethiopian forces, dislodged the Union of Islamic Courts (UIC) from Mogadishu and much of the rest of the country at the end of last year. Mortar rounds and other fire have since killed many civilians in residential areas and settlements housing 250,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs).

There are currently an estimated 400,000 IDPs in Somalia, which has been torn apart by factional fighting and has not a functioning central government since 1991. Thousands of others have fled to neighbouring countries.