Upsurge of fighting in Somalia among heaviest in recent months UN reports

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) estimates that more than 100,000 additional people have been forced to flee Mogadishu since 1 September in upsurge of fighting in a country that has been riven by factional conflicts and has not had a functioning central government since 1991.Some 45,000 of those recently displaced moved to relatively safer areas in Mogadishu itself, while others sought safety along the Afgooye corridor, adding to a population of more than 360,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) who live in appalling conditions there, UNHCR said. An estimated 250,000 people have been displaced from Mogadishu this year alone.During the past week, NATO and Dutch naval frigates successfully escorted three vessels through pirate-infested waters with 18,730 metric tons of UN World Food Programme (WFP) shipments to Mogadishu and the coastal town of Marka. WFP distributed food to nearly 360,000 people in various parts of the Horn of Africa country. The agency has found that large areas of cultivated farms in the Lower and Middle Juba regions have been flooded and crops damaged. Food reserves stored in underground pits were also destroyed. But the outlook for the ongoing short rainy season (September-December) is promising and expected to be normal throughout Somalia, according to a UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) analysis. Grazing and water availability has improved countrywide and the cereal crop harvest is expected to be good in the main producing areas of the south. Depending on the outcome of the cereal harvest and prices in areas of good crop production, the number of people in need of humanitarian assistance could decline over the coming six months.On the political front, UN officials have welcomed the signing of a power-sharing decision in neighbouring Djibouti between the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) and one of its Islamist opponents, the Alliance for the Re-Liberation of Somalia (ARS), to set up an inclusive and enlarged government and Unity Government. “We are pleased to be supporting this initiative,” Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s Special Representative for Somalia Ahmedou Ould-Abdallah said. The UN Political Office for Somalia (UNPOS) is facilitating a three-day workshop in Djibouti ending today to flesh out the decision.“This is the first of many dialogues on a long journey gathering various stakeholders in the complex process of bringing peace and stability to Somalia, UN Development Programme (UNDP) country director Bruno Lenmarquis said. The Independent Expert on human rights in Somalia Shamsul Bari also welcomed the power-sharing decision as well as one on the establishment of a commission of inquiry and an international court to address gross human rights and international humanitarian law violations. 28 November 2008The past week has seen some of the heaviest fighting in Mogadishu, Somalia’s capital, in recent months, with at least 55 civilians estimated to have been killed and more than 80 others wounded, according to local hospital records cited by United Nations humanitarian officials.

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