May 11th, 2007 06:13 EST
Situation Still Tense in Mogadishu
People displaced by the recent fighting in Somalia – the worst in 16 years – are gradually returning to parts of the capital, Mogadishu, but fear is preventing others from going back to areas where the military still has a strong presence, the United Nations refugee agency reported today.
UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) spokesman William Spindler told reporters in Geneva today that families who used to live in neighbourhoods affected by the fighting are still reluctant to go back, mainly because of the reported presence of soldiers from the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) and allied Ethiopian troops.
“Civilians fear that should they go back, they might be caught once more in the crossfire if the fighting resumes,” he said. “Our team reports that, even though fighting has ceased in Mogadishu, the situation remains very tense.”
Some of the estimated 250,000 people who were internally displaced within the city by the previous conflicts that had been raging in Somalia since the central government collapsed in 1991 have not been able to return to their homes because their houses have been destroyed by mortar shelling, or because they can no longer access the place where they used to live because of insecurity.
“Many of these people were living in former public buildings such as Ministries or police stations, but the TFG recently announced that people had to vacate these buildings in the coming weeks,” Mr. Spindler said.
“UNHCR is negotiating with the TFG to make sure that these people are relocated to other parts of Mogadishu where they can have access to basic services and infrastructure.”
Meanwhile, UNHCR continues to deliver assistance to the numerous families who remain in Afgooye, 30 kilometres away. More than 40,000 people fled to the Afgooye area during March and April as heavy fighting raged in Mogadishu. In recent weeks, the agency has distributed relief items such as plastic sheeting, mattresses, blankets and jerry cans to some 50,000 people in and the area.
“Assistance is also being provided to poor, rural residents of Afgooye, many of whom live in the same places as the displaced families who fled Mogadishu and it is extremely difficult to distinguish between them, as they are all equally in need,” Mr. Spindler said.
According to data provided to UNHCR by a network of aid agencies, almost 400,000 people have fled Mogadishu since the beginning of February, when the last round of fighting began.
People who have returned to Mogadishu mainly lack food, water and medicine. Mr. Spindler said the agency swill be appealing for more funds shortly to help Somalis displaced within the country and in surrounding countries.