Somalia

Somalia: Women, children fleeing mogadishu clashes face high risk of disease, trauma, rape

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Nairobi, Kenya, April 24, 2007-As nearly half a million people flee the violence in Somalia's capital, World Vision is responding in the Bakool and Bay regions, where some 35,000 people-half of them children-have traveled hundreds of miles to find sanctuary. The international relief organization is reporting deadly outbreaks of acute watery diarrhea, along with accounts of rape and abuse among women and children who escaped Mogadishu.

"The new arrivals from Mogadishu are living in overcrowded shanties or huts, and many didn't have time to pack any belongings," says Ibrahim Dima, a regional coordinator for World Vision Somalia. "These families-mostly women and children-have traveled south in the hopes of staying with relatives and clan members. But the communities here have barely recovered from the recent flooding and drought crises, and aren't in a position to help."

World Vision plans to deliver urgently needed food, water, medicine, cooking equipment, shelter, blankets, mosquito nets and psychosocial support to displaced people in Bay and Bakool. In addition, World Vision's health facility in Waajid has treated dozens of patients suffering from an outbreak of acute watery diarrhea, which has already killed several children.

The agency's assessment team has also observed serious cases of trauma in women and children, stemming from their war experiences in Mogadishu, rape and harassment during the journey, loss of family members and property, and other reasons.

Fatuma Hassan, a mother of six, does not know the fate of most of her family: "I had to leave my four children and their father who at the time were away from our house. I tried finding them but the fighting was so intense that we fled without them," said Hassan, who arrived in Waajid with two of her youngest children a few weeks ago.

"Sadly, the victims of this renewed fighting are mostly destitute women and children who are at a high risk to all forms of abuse, including theft and rape," says Rein Paulsen, World Vision's disaster response director in Washington, D.C. "There is an urgent need for a lasting ceasefire to put an end to the worst fighting Mogadishu has experienced in 16 years."

World Vision is appealing for $750,000 in donations to fund its response to this latest displacement crisis. The agency fears humanitarian needs may escalate in the coming weeks, with the advent of Somalia's rainy season, a period when diarrhea and cholera present serious health risks to children. World Vision has operated in Somalia since 1992, focusing on health, education, advocacy, food security, water and sanitation and emergency response interventions.

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For interviews or more information, contact Rachel Wolff at 253.815.2072 or 253.394.2214.
Casey Calamusa
World Vision Media Relations
Phone 253.815.2377 Cell 925.323.6208
ccalamus@worldvision.org
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