Somalia: 160,000 internally displaced persons since May

Ongoing clashes between Government forces and insurgents have uprooted another 26,000 people from the Somali capital, Mogadishu, in the past five days, the United Nations refugee agency reported today.

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said that there are now 160,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) resulting from the fighting that has been taking place since early May between Government troops and the opposition Al-Shabaab and Hisb-ul-Islam groups.

The agency added that the worsening security situation is making it more difficult for aid agencies to reach and help those in need of urgent assistance.

According to UNHCR, the majority of the displaced are women and children, many fleeing with very few belongings, and having to endure extremely difficult circumstances. Women are particularly vulnerable, with reports of rape and sexual exploitation during their flight and in places of refuge.

In addition, the independent UN expert on the situation of human rights in Somalia, Shamsul Bari, said last week that the recruitment of children by armed groups has reportedly been taking place.

“I was told during my recent visit to the region that there are specific well-organized camps set up to receive young boys, and that children are being used on the front line,” he stated.

Mr. Bari also noted that groups, including human rights defenders, aid workers and journalists, appeared to be specifically targeted.

The recent flare up of deadly violence in the Horn of Africa nation has been condemned by the UN and its international partners.

Just last week, the Security Council voiced its concern at the situation there, and reiterated its support for the Transitional Federal Government, its efforts to achieve peace, security and reconciliation in Somalia through the UN-facilitated Djibouti process, which aided the formation of the new government in February, as well as the creation of a newly-expanded Parliament and election of President Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed.

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