Somali Refugees Remain In Dire Straits

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MOGADISHU, Somalia, Aug. 16 (UPI) — The famine situation in Somalia remains bleak, the U.N. refugee agency said Tuesday, with deaths occurring at alarming levels among refugees reaching Ethiopia.

U.N. officials said in a release the malnutrition prevalent among the Somali refugees in Ethiopia is being complicated by a suspected outbreak of measles.

The U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees said a check of the Kobe refugee camp — which has grown to 250,000 people since opening in June — found an average of 10 children have been dying daily.

UNHCR representative Adrian Edwards told reporters in Geneva, Switzerland, a measles vaccination campaign for children between the ages of 6 months and 15 years in the Kobe camp was completed Monday and will continue in three other camps in the Dollo Ado complex.

The agency said about 17,500 Somali refugees have crossed into Ethiopia at other points in recent weeks.

The last of three UNHCR flights carrying humanitarian aid landed in Mogadishu Saturday, the agency said. The Somali capital’s population of 370,000 internally displaced persons has swollen by another 100,000 since June as the famine worsens.

Some told aid workers they had been confronted by al-Shabaab militants at roadblocks and discouraged from traveling to Mogadishu. UNHCR staff said the conditions at al-Adala are grim.

The U.N. World Food Program said Tuesday it would investigate any allegations of theft of humanitarian food supplies. Program representative Christiane Berthiaume told reporters in Geneva the agency has strong controls to ensure effective food aid distribution in Somalia and disputed the scale of food pilfering appearing in some media reports.

Voice of America reported Tuesday that while al-Shabaab may have been driven out of Mogadishu this month, it poses a significant obstacle to aid delivery efforts.

About 3,000 al-Shabaab militants fled into southern Somali where they hold sway Aug. 5.

“Al-Shabaab is out of the picture for the moment, but they still have capacity to cause havoc in terms of their ability to mobilize improvised explosives, in terms of their ability to use roadside bombs, in terms of their ability to assassinate people,” VOA quoted Lt. Col Paddy Ankunda, spokesman for the African Union peacekeeping force as saying. “So they’re simply out of the visible front lines, but I think we’re going to see more of these attacks.”

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