Impending humanitarian disaster in Somalia

Nairobi, 27/04/07 - Shells and mortars once again fell on the streets of Mogadishu yesterday as the exodus from the city continued. Intense fighting erupted earlier this month when Somali forces of the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) and their Ethiopian allies launched an offensive against Hawiye clan militia and remnants of the Islamic Courts Union.

The United Nations now estimates that fully 365,000 civilians have fled fighting in the Somali capital since the beginning of February alone. With violence ongoing, and parties to the conflict actively obstructing relief convoys attempting to reach affected populations, Somalia stands on the brink of a humanitarian catastrophe.

Relief efforts by humanitarian agencies are being hampered by a lack of access to populations in need, particularly in Mogadishu and the central and southern regions of Somalia. Communities are facing high levels of insecurity from ongoing military and militia activity, banditry, and a complete lack of respect for international humanitarian and human rights law from all sides in the conflict. Many parts of Mogadishu have come under sustained artillery barrages resulting in heavy civilian casualties. According to local human rights groups, over 300 civilians have been killed in this latest round of clashes.

Rosemary Heenan of Trocaire Somalia has expressed her anger and dismay at the flagrant disregard for civilian safety and well-being, and the inadequate response to date from the international community.

"It is impossible to overstate how serious the situation is in Somalia at the moment. The vast majority of those displaced have no access to clean water, shelter, basic health care, or affordable food. With the rainy season now upon us, likely flooding and a sharp increase in water borne diseases will devastate these extremely vulnerable communities. Already, thousands of Cholera cases have been reported. This fighting must stop."

Trocaire has been working in Somalia since 1992, and over the past 14 years has supported activities in the areas of livelihood security, peacebuilding & conflict resolution, and healthcare. It is currently scaling up its operation in the Gedo region to respond to the increasing numbers of people displaced by fighting in Mogadishu. Trocaire calls on all parties to the conflict and the international community at large to bring about an immediate ceasefire and ensure unimpeded access to those in need.