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Somalia pledges tight security for relief agencies
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07:49, August 23, 2007

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The transitional government of Somalia on Wednesday pledged to enhance security in Mogadishu to let humanitarian assistance reach vulnerable populations in the Horn of Africa nation.

Somali Ambassador to Kenya Mohammed Ali Nur said the interim government has appointed health minister to work closely with relief agencies in coordinating humanitarian operations in the war- ravaged nation.

"I would like to reiterate that the government does not in any way wish to complicate the delivery of the humanitarian aid meant for its people," Nur told a news conference in Nairobi.

"We also take great exception in regard to the report by the Medicins Sans Frontieres (MSF) that indiscriminate violence is preventing people from receiving basic medical care and other humanitarian assistance," Nur said.

The envoy was reacting to MSF report this week which said residents in Mogadishu, one of the most dangerous cities in the world, are terrified to leave their homes to seek medical help, or are simply out of reach.

Christophe Fournier, MSF's international president, who recently returned from a visit to Mogadishu, called on all the parties to the conflict in Somalia to respect the work of medical staff and allow patients access to health facilities.

MSF found that six months ago there were 800 hospital beds available in the capital and now there are only 250; over the same period the number of doctors in the city's six hospitals fell from 53 to 13.

In the past month, malnutrition levels amongst children have fallen beyond emergency levels and in one camp 12 percent of children are so malnourished that they are at immediate risk of dying, the charity warned.

"With bombings and shootings nearly daily occurrences in Mogadishu, people in need of medical care are terrified to leave their homes, medical personnel are fleeing the city, and hospitals are closed or barely functioning," said Dr. Fournier.

But speaking in Nairobi, the Somali envoy said numerous successful security operations have been carried out against the insurgents in the recent past and scores of them have been arrested.

"Police patrols have been enhanced in and around Mogadishu, and the government has initiated a social mobilization program where the public and the business sector have joined hand to clean the city of Mogadishu," Nur said.

Last December, the interim government, backed by Ethiopia, ousted the Supreme Council of Islamic Courts (SCIC), an Islamist group that had taken control of much of southern Somalia.

Since that alliance regained control of Mogadishu in April, Islamist insurgents and clan fighters have mounted regular attacks against government targets.

The UN says some 400,000 people have fled the violence in Mogadishu in the past four months.

Source: Xinhua

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