The U.N. refugee agency and the International Committee of the Red Cross are expressing alarm at the worsening humanitarian situation in Somalia
They say intensified fighting in Central Somalia and the capital Mogadishu is taking a rising toll in the number of dead, wounded and displaced. Lisa Schlein reports for VOA from UNHCR and ICRC headquarters in Geneva.
The U.N. refugee agency reports violence in Somalia sharply escalated in January. Spokesman, Andre Mahecic says this has resulted in hundreds of civilian deaths and widespread destruction.
"According to local sources, intense clashes between government forces and militia groups fighting for control of the conflict-torn central regions have left at least 258 civilians dead and another 253 wounded, which makes January the deadliest month since last August when 284 people were killed and the same number injured. We estimate that more than 80,000 Somalis have been displaced since the beginning of the year."
Mahecic says internally displaced people in Galgaduud region face difficult conditions. He says many are fearful of returning to their homes and are reported to be sleeping in the open with dwindling shelter and little water.
"There are also growing concerns about the health conditions of particularly vulnerable groups-such as children, women and elderly. So far, the deteriorating security conditions have made it hard if not impossible for humanitarian workers to access the needy population. We plan to distribute emergency relief items and shelter material to over 18,000 people in 27 locations where the displaced are temporarily settled around Dhusamareebb and Belet-Weyn as soon as the security situation will permit."
The International Committee of the Red Cross is also reporting on worsening conditions in central Somalia where people are suffering from drought as well as conflict.
ICRC spokeswoman, Anna Schaaf, says her agency is distributing non-food household items as well as shelter material for 65,000 displaced people. She says the ICRC also is distributing food rations for one month.
"The ICRC together with the Somali Red Crescent Society is trying to help treat the wounded in these areas, providing various medical facilities on either side of the front lines, with dressing materials and basic drugs. And, just to give you an idea, in Mogadishu itself over the past three months, the two ICRC supported hospitals have treated over 1,200 people wounded by weapons."
The UNHCR reports more than 1.4-million people are internally displaced in Somalia and more than one-half-million Somalis live as refugees in the neighboring countries. In 2009, it says more than 120,000 Somalis sought refuge mainly in Kenya, Yemen, and Ethiopia.