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Ethiopia's reported incursion worsens plight of hungry Somalis - U.N.

Source: Thomson Reuters Foundation - Thu, 24 Nov 2011 13:47 GMT
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NAIROBI (AlertNet) – Ethiopia’s reported incursion of Somalia on Nov. 19 could force hungry Somalis to flee their homes and reduce their access to lifesaving aid, the United Nations said in its latest humanitarian update. 

Four million people in Somalia are in need of food aid, with 250,000 experiencing famine due to drought and conflict. In October, humanitarian agencies reached 2.6 million of those in need of food. 

“The humanitarian community is deeply concerned about the consequences that this intervention could have on the already fragile humanitarian situation due to access to the population,” the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said in its Nov. 22 situation report

“The intensification of the conflict in Somalia threatens to increase internal displacement.” 

Ethiopia has denied the presence of its troops in Somalia. Witnesses said they have taken up positions near bases from where the Kenyan military is launching its offensive. 

Kenya deployed hundreds of troops in the region last month to crush Islamist militants whom it accused of kidnapping tourists and aid workers on its territory. 

Fighting between Kenya and al Shabaab rebels is already preventing the distribution of emergency relief in southern Somalia. 

“Military activity in Lower Juba and Gedo is affecting humanitarian operations, worsening the crisis in the two regions,” the United Nations said in its report. 

Earlier this month, the Somalia regions of Bay, Bakool and Lower Shabelle were downgraded from famine to humanitarian emergency levels, while Middle Shabelle and refugee populations in Mogadishu and Afgoye remain in famine conditions. 

Afgoye, 40 km outside the capital Mogadishu, is the world’s largest settlement for internally displaced people (IDPs). 

“Obstacles to access have contributed to the persisting famine in the Afgoye corridor and in Middle Shabelle region, but it is unclear why famine persists amongst IDP communities in Mogadishu, where access is relatively good,” the United Nations said.

(Editing by Alex Whiting)

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