[dehai-news] (VOA) Need for Aid Rises as Insurgents Reach Outskirts of Somali Capital


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From: Biniam Tekle (biniamt@dehai.org)
Date: Fri Nov 14 2008 - 11:46:41 EST


  Need for Aid Rises as Insurgents Reach Outskirts of Somali Capital By
Derek Kilner
Nairobi
*14 November 2008*
Kilner report - Download (MP3) [image: audio clip]
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Kilner report - Listen (MP3) [image: audio clip]
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The International Committee of the Red Cross announced that it is increasing
food and other assistance for over 400,000 people displaced by violence in
south and central Somalia. As Derek Kilner reports from VOA's East Africa
bureau in Nairobi, the announcement comes as Islamist insurgents continue an
advance towards the capital, Mogadishu.

The ICRC's Somalia relief coordinator, Mathias Frese, said the organization
will have tripled its food aid to Somalia from 2007 to 2008. The recent
escalation in fighting, along with continued drought, have worsened what
U.N. officials had already called Africa's worst humanitarian crisis.

On Thursday, Islamist insurgents entered Elasha, a settlement of displaced
people fewer than 20 kilometers from Mogadishu.

  [image: Somali militia of al-Shabab are seen during exercises at their
military training camp outside Mogadishu, 04 Nov 2008] Somali militia of
al-Shabab are seen during exercises at their military training camp outside
Mogadishu, 04 Nov 2008Resident Jama'a Abdirahman told VOA that the Islamists
left as Ethiopian troops, retreating from the town of Afgoye to the west,
passed through on their way to Mogadishu. He said that members of the
government militia that had controlled the town had returned, but that
members of the radical Islamist al-Shabab militia, as well as fighters from
other Islamist factions were still in the area.

On Wednesday al-Shabab took control of the port town of Merka, to the south.
The transitional government, backed by Ethiopian troops, remains in control
of Mogadishu, and the town of Baidoa, where the parliament is based, and has
soldiers in Afgoye. But insurgents now hold much of the rest of south and
central Somalia.

Ethiopia had agreed to withdraw its forces from urban centers as part of a
peace agreement with a moderate faction of the insurgency, but the rebel
advance may change those plans. If Ethiopian troops remain, however, their
presence will continue to be a major grievance and rallying cry for the
insurgency.

Meanwhile, the escalation in fighting has increased the numbers of Somalis
fleeing across the border into Kenya. The U.N. refugee agency has echoed
calls from Human Rights Watch, for increased attention to the influx.
Emmanuel Nyabera, a spokesman for UNHCR in Nairobi, said the organization
had asked the Kenyan government to construct a fourth refugee camp at
Dadaab, along the border.

"We are extremely concerned about the situation in Dadaab refugee camp,
because the camp is extremely overcrowded. The three camps that were
supposed to accommodate around 90,000 refugees are currently accommodating
around 224,000 people," said Nyabera. "We are currently receiving around
6,000 new asylum seekers every month. We are not in a position to give
services to these people in a dignified manner."

The fighting has also hampered aid efforts inside the country, where attacks
on aid workers have increased in recent months, and both sides have been
accused of disrupting aid deliveries. Abdirahman, at the Elasha camp, said
that the World Food Program had increased deliveries since Islamist fighters
dismantled government checkpoints in the area.

Aid deliveries have also been restricted by insecurity along Somalia's
coastline, which has seen a proliferation of hijacked ships in recent
months. On Thursday night, a Chinese boat with 24 crew members was captured
off the coast of southern Somalia.

The European Union agreed last week to supply ships for a naval operation to
combat piracy off Somalia's coast

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