The United Nations Humanitarian Coordinator for Somalia expressed grave concern today at the latest spike in violence in the capital, Mogadishu, which has killed at least 80 civilians and forced more than 8,000 others to flee their homes since the start of the month.
Mark Bowden, who is also the UN Resident Coordinator in Somalia, said the most recent fighting has been focused in northern Mogadishu, especially the districts of Heliwa, Yaaqshiid and Wardhiigleey.
I am alarmed by the large number of casualties emanating from recent fighting, " he said in a statement released today, adding that civilians continue to bear the brunt of conflict and insecurity in the country. "
The worst of the latest fighting between Government forces and al-Shabaab militiamen is reported to have occurred on 10 February, when 24 people died and nearly 160 others had to be hospitalized with war-related injuries.
About a third of the people fleeing the fighting have moved to other neighbourhoods within Mogadishu, but the majority have moved out of the city to the so-called Afgooye corridor, a strip of makeshift shelters which stretches 30 kilometres west of the capital and is already home to an estimated 366,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs).
Other UN officials, including representatives of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), have also spoken out in recent days about the latest violence in Mogadishu.
Mr. Bowden appealed today to the parties to the conflict to minimize risks to civilians by abiding by international humanitarian law.
Mogadishu is among the most war-wracked parts of Somalia, where about 1.4 million people are internally displaced and millions more live in neighbouring countries such as Kenya. Somalia has not had a functioning national government since 1991.