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Somalia: ICRC mounts relief operation for half a million people

04-06-2008 News Release 08/94

Geneva (ICRC) - The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) is significantly stepping up its humanitarian relief work in Somalia to respond to the deepening crisis there.

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  Mudug region, central Somalia. Pastures have become barren in many places and water points have dried up. Herders are losing their animals.    
  ©ICRC/A. Farah    
  The ICRC is trucking water into the Bakool region of Somalia.    

Hundreds of thousands of Somalis face life-threatening food and water shortages due to the escalating armed conflict and the effects of the recent severe drought in central Somalia. High inflation and the worldwide rise in commodity prices, especially for key imports such as food and fuel, are aggravating the situation.

" We are witnessing the worst tragedy of the past decade in Somalia " , said Pascal Hundt, head of the ICRC's delegation for Somalia. " The living conditions for many families are extremely difficult. People are completely exhausted from the non-stop struggle to survive. Amidst the ongoing armed conflict and other violence, finding water and food for the family is a daily challenge. Shelter and medical attention are also increasingly difficult to obtain. "

The situation in Somalia, which was already among the worst in the world from a humanitarian viewpoint, has further deteriorated since the beginning of the year. A growing number of cities and towns in the centre and south of the country have seen armed clashes while fighting continues to be particularly intense in the capital Mogadishu.

Many civilians have been wounded or killed. Hundreds of thousands have been displaced within Somalia, with the majority now living in the open or in makeshift camps, far from any medical facilities. The deteriorating security situation and extremely fragile economy are further jeopardizing the survival of many rural communities whose coping mechanisms were already stretched to the limit. The most severely affected areas are in central Somalia, which has suffered from poor rainfall and low crop yields for over two years. Food shortages ar e severe and livestock are weakening as pasture land dried up. A growing percentage of the population has become dependent on humanitarian aid to survive.

In response, the ICRC has adapted its operations to focus almost exclusively on large-scale relief for displaced families and their host communities. In the coming weeks, the organization is planning to distribute four months worth of dry-food rations to 435,000 people in close coordination with the World Food Programme and Care. Some 150,000 people will receive essential household items such as blankets, shelter materials and kitchen sets. To finance this emergency response in Somalia, the ICRC is approaching its international donors.

Between mid-February and May, 2.3 million litres of water per day were distributed to 470,000 people in more than 400 locations. Over 268,000 people received shelter materials and basic household items. Nearly 100,000 people received one-month food rations. In addition, the ICRC stepped up its support for health clinics run by the Somali Red Crescent Society to serve some 200,000 people, and is maintaining its long-term support for the main hospitals of Mogadishu (Keysaney and Medina). Since January, over 1,300 weapon-wounded people have been admitted to those hospitals, a third of them women and children. Over 4,000 wounded people were treated there last year.

" The Somali people are going through unbearable hardship " , said Pascal Hundt. " We continue to urge all parties to the conflict to respect the rules of international humanitarian law – in particular the obligation to spare civilians, medical facilities and staff, as well as humanitarian workers. "

The ICRC has been active in Somalia for the past 30 years. It carries out all its activities in close partnership with the Somali Red Crescent Society.



    For further information, please contact:
  Pédram Yazdi, ICRC Somalia (in Nairobi), tel: +254 20 2723 963 or +254 722 51 81 42
  Nicole Engelbrecht, ICRC Nairobi, tel: +254 20 2723 963 or +254 722 51 27 28
  Anna Schaaf, ICRC Geneva, tel: + 41 22 730 2271 or +41 79 217 3217