Situation in Somalia difficult but not hopeless says top UN envoy

22 May 2009The top United Nations envoy to Somalia today characterized the situation in the Horn of Africa nation as “very difficult … but not hopeless,” as news media reported fresh outbreaks of deadly clashes in the capital, Mogadishu. Speaking to UN Radio from his headquarters in Nairobi, Ahmedou Ould-Abdallah, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative, said that among the tragedies, there was the fact that many of the people fleeing the capital were escaping violence for at least the second time.They had returned to Mogadishu after the signing of the UN-backed peace agreements in Djibouti in January, only to be sent running for their lives again after intense fighting between Government troops and the opposition Al-Shabaab and Hisb-ul-Islam groups began in Mogadishu on 8 May.Most of the uprooted have headed to makeshift camps south-west of the capital that already are home to some 400,000 people.The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) reported today that some 46,000 people had fled the capital since the fighting broke out earlier this month.“I hope they will return soon with the betterment of the situation,” Mr. Ould-Abdallah said today.The UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) estimated that over 50,000 severely malnourished children throughout the country will be without supplies because of the fighting in Mogadishu and the 17 May looting of a UNICEF office in the town of Jowhar, 90 kilometres north of the capital, which serves as the main hub for the provision of services and supplies to the whole of the central and southern regions of Somalia.Mr. Ould-Abdallah said today that he does not believe the current situation in Somalia is hopeless.“It is a long-running conflict,” he said, noting that “the tragedy in Somalia is the central government has been very weak.”With the Djibouti peace agreement, the Representative said, “we have the beginning of a credible [government]. We have to help it be functional.”Acknowledging that it is a “tough job,” he underscored that the situation is “not hopeless – and it may in fact work!” UNICEF has reported that the looting of its Jowhar office has resulted in the destruction of humanitarian supplies, assets and equipment, including vaccine cold storage, rendering thousands of doses of measles, polio and other vaccines for Somali children unusable.However, UNICEF and UNHCR said today that they plan to go ahead with a major distribution of non-food items in the coming days, targeting more than 100,000 displaced people. The UN World Food Programme (WFP) reported that dry food distributions had not been adversely affected as of Thursday, with 14 out of 16 distribution points in Mogadishu serving over 80,000 cooked meals on a daily basis.

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