The UN humanitarian chief for Somalia on Thursday appealed for warring factions in the country to exercise restraint, warning that the ongoing fighting would hamper aid access to the war-torn nation.
In a statement issued in Nairobi, the Humanitarian Coordinator for Somalia Eric Laroche expressed concerns over the deterioration of the ongoing humanitarian operation aimed at assisting flood victims in the Horn of Africa nation.
"Engaging in conflict at a time when a significant segment of the population is already struggling for survival is unacceptable, " Laroche said in the statement.
"More than ever, stability is now essential for the success of the ongoing humanitarian operation and all efforts should be entirely focused on alleviating the suffering of Somalis," he added.
The statement came as fighting resumed on Thursday for a second day between fighters loyal to the transitional government and advancing Islamic fighters along two frontlines in Daynunay and Idale, only 25 km southeast and 60 km southwest to Baidoa, the seat of the transitional government.
Officials of the interim government said heavy artillery and mortar fire could be heard close to the base of the interim administration in Baidoa, underlining the difficulties of securing peace in the Horn of Africa nation.
Laroche said there is growing concerns that a military conflict between rival groups in the country could worsen the existing humanitarian crisis and prevent access to the most vulnerable communities.
The Horn of Africa nation is facing widespread flooding that has affected thousands of people.
"Displacement of civilians is increasingly being reported from the conflict areas, although numbers are not yet confirmed, while local hospitals report a high number of wounded," the statement issued in Nairobi said.
Laroche said widespread flooding is aggravating the frail humanitarian situation in Somalia, which has already displaced an estimated 454,500 people in the Juba and Shabelle riverine areas.
The UN said about 1.4 million people have been identified as being in need of urgent humanitarian assistance and protection, warning that the consequences of any widespread conflict overlaid on the present situation would be disastrous.
"The UN and its partners have just launched a humanitarian appeal to donors to enable the mobilization of a full humanitarian response. This, however, will not go far if we cannot then access populations in need and deliver assistance on the ground due to armed conflict," Laroche warned.
About 28.6 million U.S. dollars are included in the appeal for flood relief. About 10.4 million dollars have been sourced from the Central Emergency Response Fund, a UN emergency fund set up for the timely response to humanitarian crisis.