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SOMALIA: Plea to help 2,000 displaced families

NAIROBI, 21 February 2007 (IRIN) - Civil society organisations in Somalia have appealed to the international community to help at least 2,000 families displaced over the past two weeks by violence in the capital, Mogadishu.

"We are appealing to the international community, particularly to the United Nations, to come to the aid of these people," Muhammad Nur Ga'al, the deputy head of the coalition known as Civil Society in Action, said on Wednesday from Mogadishu. "Their situation is dire and if things don't improve quickly it will get worse."

The families, representing an estimated 12,000 people, fled their homes to escape continued heavy weapon exchanges between Ethiopian-backed government troops and unknown gunmen.

"Our estimate is as of last night [Tuesday] about 2,000 families have been displaced from Mogadishu in the last two weeks," Ga'al said.

He said the coalition was conducting a survey to get an accurate number of the dead, wounded and displaced. The majority of the displaced are women and children and some had been camping on the roads out of Mogadishu, he said.

Ga'al said fear was driving most of the people out of their homes. "The population in the city has been enduring a nightly barrage of mortars, artillery and Katusha rocket attacks," he said. "It has become more deadly in the last couple of weeks."

The IDPs are apparently going both south and north of the city. "They seem to be taking the road closest to them," he said.

He said Civil Society in Action had pleaded with the government "to unconditionally stop the shelling of civilian areas immediately", he said.

The UN has also expressed concern about the shelling and its consequences on the civilian population.

"We are extremely concerned about the indiscriminate shelling - mortars and RPGs [rocket-propelled grenades] - that has been taking place in Mogadishu and the civilian casualties that have resulted, including women and children," Philippe Lazzarini, the head of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) Somalia, said.

Madobe Nuunow Muhammad, the minister for information in the Transitional Federal Government, said the government was concerned about the effect the attacks were having on the population. "We are of course concerned but the responsibility must lie with those who are initiating these attacks and hiding in civilian areas," he said.

Madobe said the government would make every effort to protect the population, "but we call upon the people not to allow those who don't want to see a government in the country hide among them".

However, OCHA Somalia said it was trying to get "a better picture of the scope of the displacement … to get a better sense of eventual emergency needs", adding that the security situation in Mogadishu continued to be volatile.

"The UN is working on securing common premises which should enable in the very near future the scaling-up of operations and the presence of international staff in Mogadishu."

A local journalist said more people were leaving the city on Wednesday for fear of more attacks. "We had no attacks last night but people are still leaving, taking advantage of the lull and are trying to leave," he said.



Copyright © IRIN 2007
This material comes to you via IRIN, the humanitarian news and analysis service of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. The opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of the United Nations or its Member States.
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