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UN refugee agency provides aid to more than 40,000 Somalis who fled capital

UN refugee agency provides aid to more than 40,000 Somalis who fled capital

Displaced Somali women carrying away aid distributed in Afgooye
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has provided aid to more than 40,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Somalia who live in precarious conditions in dozens of makeshift settlements west of the capital, Mogadishu.

UNHCR spokesperson Jennifer Pagonis told reporters today that the agency completed the distribution of aid this week to IDPs living along a 30-kilometre stretch of road between Mogadishu and the town of Afgooye.

In total, as many as 300,000 former residents of the capital live in a tangle of some 200 crowded and rudimentary settlements, and this week's distribution targeted the most vulnerable people within that group.

Ms. Pagonis said it took UNHCR two days to transport the aid 30 kilometres because of the numerous checkpoints set up along the road by both soldiers and militiamen who demand money in return for safe passage.

As part of the aid, which arrived as the annual rainy season began, each family received one plastic sheet, one kitchen set, three blankets and six sleeping mats.

A second round of aid distribution will soon begin for another 40,000 IDPs in Afgooye and on the immediate outskirts of Mogadishu, while a separate but similar programme aims to provide relief to an estimated 12,000 people who fled recently to the seaside town of Marka.

Somalia, which has not had a functioning national government since 1991, has been beset by increasingly brutal fighting this year between Ethiopian-backed Transitional Federal Institution (TFI) forces and Islamist insurgents, particularly in Mogadishu.

Yesterday the Security Council adopted a resolution deploring the violence and deteriorating humanitarian situation and asking Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to press ahead with contingency plans to deploy a possible UN peacekeeping force to replace the under-resourced African Union force known as AMISOM.