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Home >> World
UPDATED: 21:10, December 22, 2006
Aid agencies urge unrestricted humanitarian access amid tension in Somalia
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Three international humanitarian agencies on Friday appealed to all actors in Somalia to cease hostilities and resume peace talks as quickly as possible.

In a joint statement issued in Nairobi, the agencies - CARE, Save the Children UK and World Vision International urged all parties to ensure unrestricted humanitarian access to those who are suffering from the effects of fighting, recent flooding and months of prolonged drought.

"Close to 1 million people have been seriously affected by a series of multiple natural disasters," said Paul Daniels, assistant country director for CARE in Somalia.

The agencies are providing relief and long-term development in south and central Somalia to approximately 1.5 million people.

They are among the largest humanitarian agencies working in south and central Somalia, addressing the priority needs of flood- affected populations in the regions of Hiran, Lower Shebelle, Gedo and Lower and Middle Juba.

The agencies said recent flooding after months of drought, compounded by the threat of war, is likely to displace over 1 million vulnerable people and create a new surge of refugees in neighboring countries.

"Thousands have lost their homes, cattle and crops. Heavy rains have broken river banks, washed away access roads and swallowed up anything in sight," the organizations said.

This scenario could destabilize the entire Horn of Africa region, said the three aid agencies, adding that in recent months, more than 35,000 Somali refugees have arrived in Kenya, putting additional pressure on the already crowded Dadaab refugee camps.

The rains have rendered many areas of Somalia inaccessible, requiring air drops and boat delivery to get humanitarian aid to people who stayed in their villages.

The bad conditions of the roads and the rising tensions are greatly slowing down the delivery of food.

Recently, a UN convoy carrying humanitarian items from Mogadishu to Wajiid took 29 days to travel a 90-km stretch of road, typically a 24-hour trip.

"The communities we work with, especially in Middle Juba, are already vulnerable. Most of them are recovering from a food crisis that has been compounded by the floods. World Vision is reaching about 90,000 flood victims in Middle Juba. We request safe and secure access to enable us to carry out our humanitarian work," Graham Davison, World Vision Somalia's operations director said.

The agencies said a resumption of peace talks between the weak government and the powerful Islamists must be vigorously pursued in order to achieve lasting peace for the people of Somalia and their children.

Though the three aid agencies have scaled up their relief efforts to respond to the recent floods, the organizations have expressed concern about the safety of their teams on the ground since they are operating in a high-risk environment.

Source: Xinhua


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