UN calls for improved access to the displaced

A top UN official has urged those who control the parts of Somalia to which large numbers of displaced civilians have flocked, to beef up security and improve access to those in need.

"I am very worried about the high levels of displacement from Mogadishu going into the Afgooye area [30km south of Mogadishu], where it is very difficult to reach them," Mark Bowden, UN resident coordinator for Somalia said.

Humanitarian agencies, he said, needed "far better support and acceptance from those who are controlling displaced areas, like Afgooye, to facilitate humanitarian assistance and provide the sort of security guarantees that allow peoples’ needs to be addressed."

Some 160,000 have been have displaced from Mogadishu since 7 May because of fighting between government forces and Islamist insurgents, according to the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR).

"Despite the difficulties, the UN and its partners have been able to distribute both food and non-food items and are looking to see how best to respond to the situation," Bowden told IRIN on 19 June.

Ali Sheikh Yassin, deputy chairman of the Mogadishu-based Elman Human Rights Organization (EHRO), said 397 people had been killed and 1,738 injured since 7 May. Most victims were women and children.

Yassin told IRIN on 23 June that more people were leaving the city. "It seems they want to take their chance and are leaving while they can."

Roberta Russo, a spokeswoman for UNHCR Somalia, said over 9,000 had been displaced from the northern Mogadishu district of Karan on 20-21 June.