Somalia

Somalia: Situation Report - 18 May 2007

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Main Developments

There was sporadic violence in Mogadishu this week. In the latest targeted assassination, the District Commissioner (DC) of Huriwa neighborhood in north Mogadishu was shot dead on 13 May by unknown gunmen. The DC was the second district official killed in Mogadishu since early January. Gunmen also attacked a WHO office in Mogadishu on 14 May, wounding a guard but failing to gain entrance to the property. On 16 May, Ugandan troops came under attack when a remote-controlled bomb exploded as their convoy was passing, killing four troops and a civilian and wounding several others, including two children. Ugandan troops have been engaged in recent days in defusing bombs and unexploded ordinance remaining from the recent conflict. Finally, the TFG PM survived what is thought to have been an attempt on his life on 17 May, when a grenade thrown at his convoy in Mogadishu failed to explode. All of the above incidents are contributing to fears of escalating violence in the city, following the lull of the last couple of weeks.

Elsewhere in South/Central, on 15 May, armed militia ambushed a convoy near Jowhar in which the Governor of Lower Shabelle was travelling. Four soldiers and two Somali journalists travelling with him were killed. The Governor was reportedly on his way to mediate dialogue between rival sub-clans that have been fighting in the Adale area of Lower Shabelle. At least 16 people are thought to have been killed in the recent clan fighting and 30 more wounded in a dispute related to land.

The new Emergency Relief Coordinator (ERC) travelled to Mogadishu on 12 May, the highest ranking UN official to have visited the city since the early nineties. Although the visit was curtailed by explosions along the mission's proposed route, the ERC met with the TFG President and Prime Minister, as well as with civil society representatives, and visited a Cholera Treatment Centre and an IDP site. The ERC called on the TFG to provide complete support for and facilitation of humanitarian access - particularly to conflict-related IDPs - and expressed his grave concern over reports of human rights abuses and violations of International Humanitarian Law perpetrated by all parties to the conflict (indiscriminate shelling, arbitrary arrests, transfer of prisoners to secret detention centres, harassment of humanitarian workers). The President and PM agreed to a visit by the High Commissioner for Human Rights to look into allegations of human rights abuses. In another meeting, the ERC spoke to representatives of civil society about the severity of the crisis and obstacles facing conflict-displaced IDPs who wish to return to Mogadishu. Upon his return to New York, the ERC will brief the UN Security Council on the humanitarian situation in Somalia.

The number of confirmed cases of AWD/cholera in South/Central stands at 30,101, including 966 related deaths (1 January-11 May). However, these figures do not include cases for the week ending 11 May in Galgadud, Middle Juba and Lower Shabelle regions. The outbreak has been effectively contained in areas where the security situation allows access, such as Baidoa (Bay) and Wajid (Bakool). Health partners continue to focus on the chlorination of drinking water in affected areas (including for hospital water supplies) and on putting proper hygiene and sanitation measures in place. However, the current response is not adequate to the outbreak - largely due to the lack of access for international staff to some areas of South/Central, resulting in limited supervision and monitoring of response activities and treatment. In other areas, there are no health partners for implementation of response.

A moderate risk of flooding remains for the lower reaches of the Shabelle river. Due to rains in the Ethiopian highlands, river levels rose in Jowhar (Middle Shabelle) and Qoryoley districts (Lower Shabelle), and overflows were reported due to river breakages. UNICEF and UNDP, with local NGOs WOCA and CED, are working on closing the breakage at Mararey (18km north of Jowhar). Though the impact of the localized floods has been minimal, if river levels continue to rise and rains in the river catchments in Ethiopian highlands are above normal, flooding is a high possibility in both Shabelle and Juba valleys during late May/early June. The rainfall forecast for the coming week is calling for light to moderate rains in most parts of country and in the Ethiopian highlands.

Displacement

In recent weeks, movement out of Mogadishu has slowed dramatically. Over 391,000 are estimated to have fled the capital since 1 February. Since the cessation of major fighting in late April, UNHCR and partners have reported a modest number of returns relative to the scale of displacement. It is estimated that approximately 8,200 people have so far gone back to Mogadishu, with reports of returns continuing. The vast majority of returnees are from Lower Shabelle (6,600), with 6,200 from Afgoye and 380 from Merka districts. An estimated 350 IDPs have returned to Mogadishu from Middle Shabelle (mainly Jowhar), and 1,200 from Bay region. Several factors may be acting as deterrents to large-scale return to Mogadishu, including fears of violence escalating again, the destruction in the fighting of some public buildings formerly occupied by IDPs, and tension over the planned use of public buildings that were, until recently, occupied by IDPs. Heavy rains in Mogadishu and Lower Shabelle may also be inhibiting movement.

Access and Response

Heavy rains and localised flooding have begun to impede access. The Baidoa-Wajid road is inaccessible due to heavy rainfall, as is the Jowhar airport road, which is part of the road linking Jowhar to Beletweyne. As a result of flooding on the latter, Jowhar airport has been closed to UNCAS flights since 14 May.

Two international consultants working for CARE who were kidnapped by local militia on 8 May in Bari region of Puntland were released on 15 May. Their release was facilitated by local elders, who negotiated with the captors. The motives behind the abduction are unclear. Following the incident, CARE temporarily suspended all of its programmes in Puntland. The NGO has since restarted activities in all but the Bari region, where it is discussing with elders and civil society representatives guarantees related to staff security prior to resuming its activities.

Food distributions to IDPs are continuing. CARE has completed distribution in Galgadud/South Mudug to 60,000 IDPs. Today, WFP began a second round of food distributions to 122,500 people who either fled Mogadishu or have recently returned to the city, and to 30,000 IDPs in Merka (Lower Shabelle). In the coming days, WFP will deliver food to 32,000 IDPs near Afgoye, 13,500 IDPs in Brava and 9,000 IDPs in Qoryoley districts (Lower Shabelle); 13,000 IDPs in Baidoa will also receive food. However, WFP is reporting that a recent spate of piracy incidents may impact on their ability to move large amounts of food assistance by sea - the fastest and most efficient means of doing so.

Approval for CERF funds under the Rapid Response Grant has been given to UNICEF (US$1.7 million) and UNHCR (US$1 million) for projects to assist IDPs who have recently fled or been affected by the conflict in Mogadishu. UNICEF's project will target 180,000 people in South/Central with shelter material and NFIs, with priority given to Benadir, Galgadud, and Lower and Middle Shabelle regions. UNHCR's project will provide emergency shelter, NFIs and support to basic services infrastructure for 90,000 people, targeting response gaps in Mogadishu, Afgoye, Galgadud and Galkayo. Assistance to IDPs in areas worst affected by the conflict - as well as to IDPs who may be prevented from returning to their settlements, public buildings or public grounds in Mogadishu - will be prioritised under the project.

For further information, contact:

Molly McCloskey +254 727 659 100 or Amanda di Lorenzo at +254 734 210 102, mccloskeym@un.org, dilorenzoa@un.org

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