SOMALIA: Mass exodus in Somalia ongoing due to continued violence

Wednesday, September 1, 2010
UN Radio
Eastern Africa
PeaceWomen Consolidated Themes: 
Sexual and Gender-Based Violence
Human Rights

The capital of Mogadishu, Somalia has been the scene of ongoing clashes between Government troops and Islamist Militant groups, including Al-Shabaab. Violence in the city has led to some 3,000 casualties this year and uprooted around 200,000 people. The fighting is far from over and the situation is critical for those who remain in the capital. UN Radio's Derrick Mbatha spoke to the UN Refugee Agency's Spokesperson, Roberta Russo, who gives him a glimpse of the chaos that is in the capital.

RUSSO: The violence is increasing in Mogadishu, so more and more people are fleeing. Tens of thousands of people have fled since last month. Since July we have 36,000 who have fled the capital only and unfortunately, only a minority of them manages to leave the capital. Many of them are stranded within Mogadishu itself finding refuge in relatively safer areas in the capital while only a few thousand managed to get out and reach Afgoye. The 1st of July we got 20,000 people who managed to flee the country out of the 36,000 and most of them found refuge in Afgoye- 9,000 of them. Afgoye which is the most highly densely populated area with displaced people in the whole world hosting already 360,000 (or 306,000) people.

MBATHA: You say that people are stranded in Mogadishu... why is it that they are not able to leave?

RUSSO: Well, what we get in terms of reports by our presence but also in terms of reports from the IDPs, the displaced people who managed to leave the city. The people now who are now left in Mogadishu are the ones who really have nothing. Basically, they don't have the means of paying for transport that would bring them out of Mogadishu. We receive horrible reports of people who don't even have the money to pay for hospital and health care, for their relatives who got wounded and injured because of the fighting. People don't even have money to bury their own dead relatives. So the situation for people is tragic in Mogadishu. People live and sleep without shelter at night, don't have food, don't have water, don't have access to health care and of course education.

MBATHA: Are relief agencies such as UNHCR able to reach those people and help them?

RUSSO: It is more difficult than ever to reach people in this moment in South Central Somalia. We still manage to bring some relief and UNHCR distributes emergency relief items such as plastic shelter, material, mattresses, blankets, Jerri cans and cooking sets to the displaced, but I must say the access we have to the people is shrinking and we manage less and less to reach them.

MBATHA: Is that because of insecurity or are there other factors for that?

RUSSO: Yes, it is because of insecurity. It is a long time that the UN personnel cannot access certain areas of the South Central Somalia. So, it is the last couple of years that we are working more and more with local partners, the Somali NGOs. But now we reached the point that even Somali NGOs are having huge problems to reach some areas of South Central Somalia.

Roberta Russo, UNHCR Spokesperson in Somalia speaking to UN Radio's Derrick Mbatha.

Duration: 2'52"