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SOMALIA: Food shortages in the south as insecurity increases

NAIROBI, 12 February 2007 (IRIN) - Families in Somalia’s Middle Juba region in the south are consuming seeds meant for planting because of food shortages, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) Somalia reports.

A recent trip to the region by a team from the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) reported a "highly alarming humanitarian and livelihood situation", said OCHA Somalia. The report estimated that "20,000 families need urgent assistance" in the districts of Jamaame, Lower Juba region, and in Jilib, Middle Juba.

Many "families reported that due to lack of food they had eaten seeds distributed for post-flood recessional planting … There is evidence to suggest that the region, including Buale and Jilib [Middle Juba] to Jamaame [Lower Juba], is in a similar humanitarian and livelihood situation," the agency said. An inter-agency response, it added, was under way.

In Badhade District in Lower Juba, an estimated 2,000 households have been reported to need aid urgently. "The families were affected by the recent conflict in the region, and have either been displaced or have become more vulnerable as a result," said OCHA.

Badhade is close to the area where fighting continues between Union of Islamic Courts (UIC) remnants and Ethiopian-supported government soldiers, who have been pursuing them since the UIC was forced out of the capital, Mogadishu, and much of southern Somalia in late December 2006. It is also close to an area that has been bombed by American jets.

An estimated 1.1 million people are already facing a humanitarian crisis in southern Somalia, which has recently been ravaged by drought, floods and conflict.

Meanwhile, in Mogadishu, a father and his six-year-old son were killed when an artillery shell hit their house on Sunday in the Huriwa district, a local resident said. A civil society source told IRIN that "the security situation is so bad many neighbourhoods in the city have begun to set up their own security".

In the southern port city of Kismayo, five people were killed and at least 21 wounded when a bomb was thrown into a pro-government rally.

"Most of the dead were civilians but at least six senior government officials, including the deputy chief of the army, Gen Abdi Mahad, and Gen Ahmed Mahamud, the chief of police for southern Somalia, were injured," said a local resident, who was at the rally.

He said the attack had "heightened tensions in Kismayo", which had been peaceful and so far escaped the increasingly frequent attacks in Mogadishu.

Isma'il Muhammad Qalinle, a Kismayo businessman, told IRIN that government forces were arresting scores of people, "but they are arresting innocent people. They know who did this. They know the clan that was behind it and it should be named, instead of going after innocent people," he added.

Qalinle said Kismayo was in the grip of inter-clan tension "that has been building up since the government started to allocate positions, which some clans have seen as unfair", he added.

However, Salad Ali Jeele, the Somali Deputy Minister of Defence, told IRIN the government was investigating the incident in Kismayo, "and anyone found to have been involved would be brought to justice, no matter what".

ah/mw

Theme (s): Conflict, Food Security,

[This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]

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