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Increased Fighting Makes Humanitarian Work, Health Situation More Difficult In Somalia, U.N. Says

Despite increasing danger posed by “al Qaeda-linked militants,” U.N. Emergency Relief Coordinator John Holmes said Tuesday U.N. aid workers “were not backing away” from the country, Reuters reports. “Intense fighting is making it increasingly difficult to deliver aid in the Horn of Africa country, where U.N. agencies are trying to combat cholera outbreaks and maintain food supplies to 3.5 million hungry people,” the news service writes (Nebehay, 7/21).

Holmes’ statements came one day after “Somalia’s hardline Shebab militia raided the offices of the U.N. Development Program, the U.N. Department of Safety and Security and the U.N. Political Office for Somalia in Baidoa and Wajid,” forcing the agency to temporarily suspend its work in Baidoa, the AFP/Google.com reports. U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Tuesday condemned the actions of the Somali militiamen while reaffirming the agency’s commitment to the people of Somalia (7/21).

In addition to 400,000 people already crowded into shelters, “[a]n estimated 223,000 residents have now left Mogadishu since early May, when the Al-Shabaab and Hisb-ul-Islam militant groups launched attacks against Government forces in the capital,” U.N. News Sevice/allAfrica.com reports. “There is a lack of adequate shelter, sanitation facilities and clean drinking water. The situation has grown worse following recent torrential rains. The lack of sufficient latrines poses a major health risk,” U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees spokesman Ron Redmond said.

The WHO is “especially concerned about deadly outbreaks of acute watery diarrhoea, which is on the rise again around Mogadishu after two years of decline,” the news service writes. The region’s health centers are also overwhelmed, with “[t]wo of Mogadishu’s four functioning hospitals … admitting only war-wounded patients and trauma patients for emergency surgery” and the closure of several health facilities in the Bakool region due to “insecurity and hostility towards aid workers” (7/21).

Last week, the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs appealed for donor help to deal with Somalia’s growing health crisis (Kaiser Daily Global Health Policy Report, 7/17).

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Filling the need for trusted information on national health issues, the Kaiser Family Foundation is a nonprofit organization based in Menlo Park, California.