UN concerned over plight of IDPs

The United Nations has said it is concerned over the plight of internally displaced persons (IDPs) throughout Somalia.

In a open letter last week to Somali leaders attending the peace talks in Kenya, Maxwell Gaylard, the UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator for Somalia, expressed "increasing concern about the often appalling conditions in which internally displaced persons in Somalia live".

"Throughout Somalia, IDPs often do not have access to even the most basic of social services, and many suffer violations of their human rights, including denial of access to basic services, and sexual violence against women and girls," he said.

The UN estimates that there are 350,000 IDPs throughout Somalia, most of them women and children. Of this number, about 150,000 live in the capital, Mogadishu, with another 15,000 in the southern port city of Kismayo, while the rest are scattered around the country.

Gaylard appealed to the Somali leaders to urgently "reaffirm publicly your commitment and accountability for the protection of IDPs who are located in areas under your control".

He urged the leaders to ensure that civilians were not displaced. However, among those who were displaced, their rights must not be violated, he stressed.

The letter warned that those suspected of such violations could in future be prosecuted by the International Criminal Tribunal.