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Somalia: Situation Report - 19 Oct 2007
Assistance to vulnerable people in Mogadishu was further complicated this week following the abduction of the Head of Office of WFP Mogadishu by the Transitional Federal Government forces (TFG) on 17 October. Reports indicated that about 60 heavily armed soldiers entered the United Nations Common Compound and arrested the staff member without reasons given for his arrest. The actions are a breach to the 1946 Convention on Privileges and Immunity of the UN; to protect all UN staff and property, to which the State of Somalia is a party. The UN Secretary General in a statement called for the immediate and unconditional release of the staff.
Subsequently, and in the interest of safeguarding its staff, WFP suspended food aid distributions as well as the loading of the food in Mogadishu that started on 15 October, after a 3-months lapse since June. The programme aims to provide food to more than 75,000 people through local mosques in order to reduce the number of civilians injured and killed during food aid distributions in the capital. This comes at a time when more than 1.5 million Somalis need assistance and protection. Inadequate rainfall, as well as continuing internal displacements and a possible cholera epidemic, has led to a deteriorating food security situation in South/Central Somalia.
This week, Mogadishu saw one of its worst fighting between government troops and anti-government elements. Reportedly, over 30 people were injured and an unknown number killed due to the crossfire. This follows the intensification of arms searches by the TFG to rid the city of insurgents. As the targeting of government officials by unknown groups continues, for the third time this year, a Yaqshid District Commissioner was assassinated. The continuing clashes in Mogadishu further aggravated the daily lives of the neediest people, as they have not been able to meet their basic social needs on a regular base since February.
Insecurity has also increased in other parts of South/Central Somalia. In Baidoa as parliamentary sessions took place on 14 October, a hand grenade was thrown into a busy restaurant; TFG police reacted by indiscriminately firing into the restaurant wounding at least one civilian. Last week, a bomb exploded outside the Ethiopian forces base opposite where Prime Minister Gedi was residing. In order to restore security, on 15 October, the regional authorities in Baidoa reinforced the night curfew (7pm to 6am) which was imposed on 17 June. In Belet-Weyne, on 14 and 15 October several incidents were reported: artillery was allegedly fired from an Ethiopian base killing two children, a woman was found beheaded and the District Commissioner escaped a hand grenade attack. Reports indicate that these are politically motivated and negotiations are ongoing to reconcile the conflicting parties.
In the disputed area of Sool between Puntland and Somaliland, on 15 October Somaliland forces took control of Lasanod, the regional capital of Sool. Field reports indicated that an estimated 500 families fled Lasanod with a majority settling in the neighbouring south-eastern district of Ba'ome. Others fled to Garowe, to villages on the tarmac road and to the north-eastern districts like Hudun and Taleh. The population is said to be in dire need of food, shelter material and medical assistance.
Regarding locusts in Puntland (North East Somalia), a Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) expert reported that the current Desert Locust situation is calm, confirming that on 17 October there were very low numbers of scattered adult locusts. These locusts are thought to be remnants of a swarm, which dispersed within the north-eastern portion of the Ogaden (in Ethiopia) according to local sightings. No significant developments are expected in the near future concerning Desert Locust in NE Somalia.
In Dobley ( Lower Juba) 280km west of Kismayo and situated close to the Kenyan border, reports indicated that the Islamic Courts Union (ICU) peacefully took control of the town on 15 October. Media reported that due to persistent differences within the TFG, prolonged animosity among clans and Ethiopian troops being bogged down in battle with insurgencies in Mogadishu, the ICU remnants found a window of opportunity to take their agenda directly to the people.
Returns and Displacements
During the reporting period, UNHCR Population Movement Tracking (PMT) reported that since September, 34,000 people have fled Mogadishu, there have been over 900 returns, and 7,700 residents and IDPs have been evicted from their homes in government and public buildings since June. Between February and May 2007, about 400,000 IDPs moved from Mogadishu; between April and June, about 125,000 IDPs returned and nearly 88,000 people have fled Mogadishu since June.
Access and Response
CARE International's 1,100 metric tons of food is has been stuck at the Kenyan El-Wak border point for over three weeks. The border point was closed by Kenyan authorities claiming it is not an official authorized crossing. The food is meant to benefit 7,400 families in El-Wak Somalia.
For further information, contact: Rita Miangi on +254 734 800 120 – firstname.lastname@example.org
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Tel No: (254-20) 3754150-5; Fax No: (254-20) 3754156