UNHCR: Somalia violence killed 258 civilians last month; tens of thousands displaced

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Wednesday, February 3, 2010

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has said that, in the last month, 258 civilians were killed and a further 80,000 displaced by the ongoing violence in Somalia, between the government and rebel groups.

"According to local sources, intense clashes between government forces and militia groups fighting for control of the conflict- torn central regions have left at least 258 civilians dead and another 253 wounded, which makes January the deadliest month since last August," the UN agency said in a statement. "We estimate that more than 80,000 Somalis have been displaced since the beginning of the year. Thousands were also forced to leave their homes in other parts of Somalia."

The violence has made it difficult for humanitarian aid workers to access the population effectively. Andrej Mahecic, the spokesman of the UN refugees agency, noted: "So far, the deteriorating security conditions have made it hard, if not impossible, for humanitarian workers to access the needy population."

The Xinhua news agency reports that UNHCR intends to send relief and shelter supplies to upwards of 18,000 people in 27 locations, where displaced residents are living temporarily, when it is considered safe to do so.

Among those displaced were 18,000 people who fled their homes in the capital, Mogadishu; meanwhile, 29,000 were displaced in Dhusamareebb, in the Galgaduud region, and 25,000 in Beledweyne in the Hiraan region.

A total of 1.4 million Somalis are currently internally displaced, 560,000 more are refugees in adjacent countries; last year, 120,000 residents sought refuge, primarily in Ethiopia, Kenya, and Yemen.

The UN says Somalia is in its worst humanitarian crisis for eighteen years.