SOMALIA: “Mogadishu faces a catastrophe”

A health worker attends to a man injured in the recent fighting in Mogadishu

NAIROBI, 6 July 2010 (IRIN) – Heavy fighting in the northern areas of the Somali capital, Mogadishu, has trapped many residents in their homes, with some unable to bury their dead, civil society sources said on 6 July.

The fighting has rendered the areas inaccessible to those who could provide help to the affected families.

“Thousands of residents of Abdul-Aziz, Bondhere, Yaaqshid and Karan districts have been stuck in their homes for nearly 10 days, some even longer; in some cases, they are not even able to bury their dead or leave the house to get essential items,” said Ali Sheikh Yassin, an official of the Mogadishu-based Elman Human Rights Organization (EHRO).

“The vast majority are women, children and the elderly. They have little choice except to wait and hope that the violence subsides.”

Mogadishu has been a battleground between troops loyal to the Transitional Federal Government (TFG), backed by the African Union peacekeepers, and two Islamist insurgent groups, one being Al-Shabab, which now controls much of south and central Somalia.

Yassin said there were homes where no one knows “whether the residents are alive or dead; there is simply no way of knowing because no one is able to go there. We simply don’t know.”

“Spare the population”

Yassin called on the adversaries to cease fighting and spare the population. “If they won’t stop the fighting they should at least allow safe passage to those who can leave and those who want to leave.”

According to the UN Refugee Agency, UNHCR, the fighting in and around Mogadishu has displaced 11,700 people since 14 June.

Photo: Siegfried Modola/IRIN
An African Union peackeeper guards an AU control post in Mogadishu (file photo)

“We also got a high number of reports of killing and assaults on civilians in Mogadishu in the last few weeks,” said Roberta Russo, a spokeswoman for UNHCR Somalia.

According to the agency’s partners on the ground, the coping mechanisms of the people remaining in Mogadishu seemed to be exhausted, with more and more women and children begging on the streets, she said.

“The population is frightened by the increased violence affecting everybody living in the city but they still keep hoping that one day the fighting will end,” she said.

A civil society source, who requested anonymity, told IRIN that many of those trapped in the latest fighting “cannot afford to leave. They are either too poor, too weak or both,” adding that they wanted to be close to “what they know. They are too afraid to leave their homes.”

The fighting has gained intensity in the last week, “with a daily average of 300 artillery shells hitting the city”, he said.

He said no help was getting to the residents in many parts of the city, “because no one can access them. We are Somalis and we cannot even access them. The fighting parties don’t seem to care about the plight of the population. If the situation does not improve Mogadishu faces a catastrophe.”

A local journalist told IRIN: “You can hear the constant shelling even as we speak. It is relentless. I don’t know how much more the population can take.”


Theme(s): (IRIN) Conflict, (IRIN) Early Warning, (IRIN) Gender Issues, (IRIN) Refugees/IDPs




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