Somalia: UN concerned over humanitarian situation in Baidoa

NAIROBI, 12 March (IRIN) - The United Nations has said it is deeply concerned over the worsening humanitarian situation in the southwestern town of Baidoa, where a power struggle between two rival factions of the Rahanweyn Resistance Army (RRA) has been going on since last July.
In a press release, Maxwell Gaylard, the UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator for Somalia, said the fighting had disrupted aid activities for more than eight months and humanitarian conditions in the town had deteriorated, "in particular in the area of health".

The fighting that engulfed the town - which had enjoyed relative peace and stability since it was captured by the RRA in 1998 - was caused by a split within the senior ranks of the RRA, which controls much of the Bay and Bakol regions of southwestern Somalia.

The split originated from a power struggle between the RRA chairman, Hasan Muhammad Nur Shatigadud, and his two deputies, Shaykh Adan Madobe and Muhammad Ibrahim Habsade. Baidoa changed hands at least three time between July and December last year.

"I am gravely concerned for the welfare of the people of Baidoa," Gaylard said.

He noted that since the fighting erupted, access to the area had been extremely limited and civilians had been displaced several times over.

"Aid activities ranging from food distribution to health services have been seriously disrupted," he added. "With the dry season underway, residents of the town are now facing water shortages. The international humanitarian community must urgently be allowed safe and unhindered access to the area so that we may fully assess and respond to the deteriorating situation."

The loss of access to Baidoa has adversely affected the humanitarian community's ability to operate throughout southern and central Somalia, the press statement said.


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