Somalia

Humanitarian situation in Somalia: Monthly analysis, Apr 2007

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This report was written in cooperation with the UN Agencies in Somalia

HIGHLIGHTS

The month of April saw continued deterioration in the security situation in Mogadishu, as fierce fighting between TFG/Ethiopian forces and anti-TFG factions resulted in the death and continued displacement of civilians. A total of 394,000 people have fled Mogadishu between 1 February and 4 May. The third week of the month was particularly violent, with two car bombs exploding and the SOS hospital hit by mortars. In the final days of April, the TFG announced that it had taken control of much of the city. Since then, Mogadishu has remained relatively calm. Movement out of the city has slowed dramatically, and small numbers of IDPs have returned. However, fears of renewed violence remain and are preventing large-scale returns.

Health concerns continue to focus on the Acute Watery Diarrhea (AWD)/cholera outbreak in South/Central Somalia, with 23,202 cases confirmed, including 743 related deaths, between 1 January 2007 and 27 April. The actual number of cases may be higher, as some areas remain inaccessible. The recent wave of displacement from Mogadishu is contributing to the spread of AWD/cholera, as are long-standing problems of poor access to safe drinking water and sanitation facilities. Health partners are responding to the outbreak, providing basic health services to over 365,000 IDPs and non-IDPs in a number of regions. Meanwhile, two new cases of polio were reported in April in Mudug region. So far in 2007, eight cases of polio have been confirmed throughout Somalia. Intensified efforts to stop the circulation of the virus are continuing.

The security situation, particularly in Mogadishu, continued to seriously restrict humanitarian access in April. Overland transport of goods and staff remained dangerous, especially on roads in and out of Mogadishu, and aid workers reported harassment by militia and TFG/Ethiopian troops. The roads linking Mogadishu with Afgoye and Merka were closed sporadically due to military activity, hindering attempts to move assistance to thousands of IDPs in these areas. Moreover, agencies were unable to access warehouses in Mogadishu where pre-positioned food and non-food items (NFIs) are stored. Key airstrips near Mogadishu remained closed for much of the month. The onset of the Gu rains (April-June) also began to impede access. WFP food distribution in Middle Juba was halted due to impassable roads, while a WFP convoy carrying 1,176 metric tons (MT) of food to Afmadow and Hagar was stuck in the mud for over two weeks. The convoy began moving to Buale on 30 April, but the distribution has been postponed until road conditions allow.

The UN Emergency Relief Coordinator traveled to Mogadishu on 12 May to assess the humanitarian situation in areas affected by the recent conflict and to hold talks with the Transitional Federal Government and civil society. The ERC urged parties in Somalia to abide by International Humanitarian Law and to provide full support for unhindered humanitarian access to populations in need. His visit was the latest in a series of high-level advocacy initiatives undertaken by the international and humanitarian communities in April and early May in an effort to increase humanitarian access. In Baidoa on 23 April, UN officials met with the Minister of Health and the newly established Inter-Ministerial Committee, a technical working group appointed by the TFG to act as the focal point for humanitarian response to the crisis. At the meeting, which addressed obstacles to humanitarian access, the TFG declared all civilian airstrips open.

The various demarches undertaken and the decrease in violence at the end of April allowed for some improvements in access. Following a security assessment, the airstrip at K50 is now open to humanitarian cargo and passenger flights, and it is hoped this will facilitate greater access to the region. Cross-border transport of humanitarian supplies from Kenya to Somalia proceeded without incident in late April and early May (though the border remains closed to potential Somali asylum-seekers).

In spite of access restrictions and insecurity during the reporting period, UN agencies and NGOs, along with local partners, were able to increase response to the needs of those displaced by the conflict. In Lower Shabelle, tens of thousands received NFIs, food aid and water, while health and Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) partners provided chlorine, cholera kits and medical supplies. In Middle Shabelle, thousands also received NFIs. In the border town of Dobley in Lower Juba, NFIs and cholera treatment supplies were provided. Tens of thousands of IDPs in Galgadud and South Mudug received NFIs and will also receive food, while in Mogadishu itself, response activities focused on water trucking/chlorination, the resupply of health facilities with essential drugs and kits and the operation of Cholera Treatment Centres (CTCs).

ACCESS and SECURITY

The month of April saw continued deterioration in the security situation in Mogadishu, as fierce fighting between TFG/Ethiopian forces and anti-TFG factions resulted in more civilian deaths and further displacement. UNHCR estimates that 190,000 people fled the city in April. (This is out of a total of 394,000 displaced between 1 February and 10 May.) The third week in the month was particularly violent, with two car bombs exploding - one on the Mogadishu-Afgoye road, the other in Mogadishu. The headquarters of Somali NGO DBG (Daryeel Bulsho Guud) was hit by artillery fire, and SOS hospital was struck by mortars, reportedly resulting in the death of several patients. The hospital was closed and all staff evacuated. In the final days of April, the TFG announced that it had taken control of much of the city. Since then, Mogadishu has remained relatively calm and small numbers of IDPs have returned to the city. Returns, however, are minimal, and tensions persist in the capital.

Elsewhere in South/Central, there were signs that the violence in Mogadishu was having a destabilizing effect. On 23 April, serious clan fighting erupted in Kismayo (Lower Juba) over control of the key port city, resulting in at least 11 dead and 40 wounded. The fighting occurred just days after the first UN inter-agency mission to Kismayo since December 2006 had taken place. Kismayo had been closed to UN international staff for security reasons and it was hoped that the mission, which met with local authorities and partners about increasing the humanitarian response in Kismayo, represented a breakthrough in access.

The security situation, particularly in Mogadishu, continued to seriously restrict humanitarian access during April. Key airstrips in South/Central remained closed. Overland transport of goods and staff remained dangerous, especially on roads leading to and from Mogadishu, with reports of banditry, murder and rape on these routes, as well as the harassment of aid workers by militia and TFG/Ethiopian troops. The roads linking Mogadishu with Afgoye and Merka were closed sporadically due to military activity, hindering attempts to move assistance to the thousands of IDPs in these areas. (The tension in and around Kismayo also caused transport delays, with contractors reportedly reluctant to operate in the affected areas.) Moreover, agencies had difficulty accessing warehouses in Mogadishu where needed pre-positioned supplies are stored. Although UNHCR was able to remove some NFIs from Mogadishu in late April for distribution in Afgoye, the vast majority of UNICEF/UNHCR supplies warehoused in the capital remained inaccessible. In addition, CARE was temporarily unable to move 1,371MT of food stored in Mogadishu intended for 60,000 IDPs in Galgadud and South Mudug.

The Gu rains (April-June) have also begun to impede access. Roads in Gedo and Lower and Middle Juba are reported to be affected, while roads around Afmadow and Badhade (Lower Juba) are flooded to the extent that some areas are now cut off. WFP food distribution in Middle Juba was halted due to impassable roads, while a WFP convoy carrying 1,176MT of food to Afmadow and Hagar was stuck in the mud for over two weeks. Recently, flooding in Jowhar resulted in the closing of the airstrip on 15 May, as well as the closing of the main Mogadishu-Hiran road running through Jowhar.

UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
To learn more about OCHA's activities, please visit https://www.unocha.org/.