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CAREW arns of Potential Famine Unless Humanitarian Access Is Provided to Somalia

NOVEMBER 1, 2007
9:05 AM

Lurma Rackley, CARE USA,,
(404) 979-9450

CARE Warns of Potential Famine Unless Humanitarian Access Is Provided to Somalia

MOGADISHU, SOMALIA - November 1 - CARE has 3,000 tons of food in Somalia's capital, Mogadishu, and another 2,000 tons waiting for shipment in the Kenyan port of Mombassa, but has been unable to deliver it to the people who need it because of intense fighting.

"If there isn't a stop to the fighting, and protection of the humanitarian agencies so that we can reach people, it is hard to see how we will be able to avoid a famine," says Gary McGurk, CARE's emergency response coordinator for Somalia.

An estimated 80,000 people have fled the capital in the last four days. When fighting broke out last April, most people headed south to the lower Shabelle region, but that route has now been blocked by fighting between clans, and many people are heading north along two main access routes.

The hijacking of a cargo ship in Mogadishu's port by pirates on Monday has complicated deliveries of food by sea, and overland transport by truck is being rendered impractical by roadblocks at which armed men demand payments averaging US$50 per truck.

"It used to take four or five hours to go from Baidoa (The Transitional Federal Government's early capital) to Mogadishu," says McGurk. "The same trip now takes four to five days."

The World Food Program managed to make a food distribution before Monday's ship hijacking, which temporarily relieved some of the pressure, but there is strong concern about what will happen in the next few weeks.

CARE has had to temporarily suspend operations in Mogadishu because of the fighting, and has been having difficulty in making assessments. For the time being, CARE is getting ready to distribute plastic sheeting, insect-repellent mosquito nets and blankets to people displaced from Las Anod, which was affected by fighting last week. Somalia is currently moving into the rainy season, which puts displaced people at a higher risk.

The hope is to provide assistance to other people on the move as they gradually manage to get into safe areas further from Mogadishu.

McGurk notes that there has been very little press coverage, and almost no television or news photos of the displaced people. "That is a reflection of just how dangerous the situation is," he says. "We see TV pictures from Darfur, but we are not getting anything from Somalia at the moment."


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