Following several days of fierce fighting in Mogadishu in which TFG/Ethiopian forces exchanged heavy artillery and gunfire with anti-government factions, the TFG is claiming to have taken control of much of the city. There have been reports of widespread looting. The TFG claim comes at the end of an intensely violent week. A car bomb exploded on 24 April outside the Ambassador Hotel, a base for Somali lawmakers, reportedly killing seven civilians. A second car bomb, a possible suicide attack, exploded outside an Ethiopian military base 30 km from the city on the road to Afgoye. The headquarters of local NGO DBG (Daryeel Bulsho Guud) was hit during the week, reportedly injuring agency staff, while on 26 April, SOS children's and maternity hospital was struck by mortars, reportedly resulting in the death of several patients. The hospital was closed and all staff evacuated. Civilians have continued to flee Mogadishu, with the latest estimate of displacement standing at 365,000. Residents are reporting that sections of the city are almost entirely deserted.
There are signs that the insecurity in Mogadishu is having a destabilizing effect on other regions. On 23 April, serious clan fighting erupted in Kismayo (Lower Juba) over control of the city, resulting in at least 11 dead and 40 wounded. The fighting is a setback for humanitarian access, following last week's inter-agency mission to Kismayo, the first to the city since December 2006. It was hoped that this mission, which met with local authorities and partners about increasing the humanitarian response in Kismayo, represented a breakthrough in access. Kismayo is host to an estimated 3,500 new IDPs from Mogadishu, as well as other vulnerable populations.
UN technical agency SWALIM has issued a flood warning for Jowhar (Middle Shabelle). Observed river levels at Jowhar rose by almost 3m in 5 days due to runoff from tributaries in Hiran and Middle Shabelle regions following heavy rains in the area. The extent of flooding may be mitigated by recent repairs of river embankments. However, there are an estimated 16,000 IDPs in Jowhar who have recently fled Mogadishu, and any localized flooding in the area will worsen their already desperate circumstances. Meanwhile, observed river levels at Beletweyne and Bulo Burti (Hiran) also continued to rise over the last week, as did levels at Luuq and Bardheere on the Juba. The rainfall forecast for the coming week is for moderate to heavy rains in Somalia, especially in the Juba catchment.
The number of cholera/Acute Watery Diarrhea cases in South/Central since 1 January is estimated to be over 17,000, with 600 related deaths. Cases are still primarily concentrated in Mogadishu and Lower Shabelle. With continuing displacement and the onset of the Gu rains, the number of cases is expected to continue to rise.
The latest figures from UNHCR estimate that 365,000 people have been displaced from Mogadishu between 1 February and 27 April. This figure represents almost a third of the city's estimated population. Around 84,000 are in Lower Shabelle; over 63,000 in Middle Shabelle; around 109,000 in Galgadud; and 40,000 in Mudug. The majority of IDPs are said to be women, children and the elderly, with those in the areas around Mogadishu still considered to be the most vulnerable. The displacement from Mogadishu is the largest movement of people in the world so far this year.
Access and Response
Following a meeting in Baidoa on 23 April between members of the TFG and UN officials, the TFG has made certain assurances regarding humanitarian access. The government has established an Inter-Ministerial Committee (chaired by the Minister for Health) as a designated focal point for the humanitarian response to the present crisis. The Committee confirmed the opening of all civilian airstrips for humanitarian organizations, including the key airstrips of Merka and K50. It is hoped that these declarations by the TFG will pave the way for increased humanitarian access and assistance, though security assessments and guarantees are still required.
WFP was able to move a convoy carrying 320 mt of food from its Mogadishu warehouse for distribution to 32,000 IDPs at six sites along the road out of Mogadishu. The distribution was given the green light at the meeting between TFG and UN officials on 23 April. While the successful delivery is a positive sign, movement by road of humanitarian supplies and staff within Somalia continues to be problematic due to general insecurity and the harassment of aid workers at checkpoints. The road between Mogadishu and Baidoa is insecure, with reports of banditry, murder and rapes in the last two weeks. The roads linking Mogadishu with Afgoye and Merka have been closed sporadically due to military activity, hindering attempts to move supplies to the thousands of IDPs in these areas. Moreover, agencies continue to have difficulty accessing warehouses in Mogadishu where needed pre-positioned supplies are stored. Although UNHCR was able to remove some NFIs this week from Mogadishu for distribution in Afgoye, the vast majority of UNICEF/UNHCR warehoused supplies have remained inaccessible. Additionally, CARE has 1,371mt of food in Mogadishu destined for 60,000 IDPs in Galgadud and South Mudug that it has been unable to move due to insecurity in the capital.
Agencies and NGOs have, with local partners, been able to mount some response despite restrictions and insecurity. UNHCR supplied NFIs to approximately 36,000 IDPs in Afgoye last weekend, including plastic sheets, blankets, kitchen sets and jerry cans. Three more flights carrying UNHCR NFIs have landed in Baidoa with supplies for an additional 15,000 IDPs in Afgoye. UNHCR is attempting to move the NFIs by truck for distribution. CARE and CONCERN have delivered NFIs to around 23,000 displaced in and around Merka. WHO, UNICEF, MDM and others have provided chlorine, cholera kits and medical supplies to health facilities and partners in various locations. However, due to the difficulties of reaching some displaced populations, gaps remain in the major areas of water and sanitation, health, food and shelter materials.
CARE completed today an assessment in Brava (Lower Shabelle), reporting 15,900 IDPs (2,650 households). The assessment team will return to Merka to finalize registration of IDP households not covered in Merka during CARE's first round of distribution. The NGO will distribute UNICEF Family Relief Kits (FRK) to over 7,000 families in Merka and Brava. The FRKs are expected to sail from Mombasa this weekend for distribution next week.
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