40,000 famine-hit Somalis flee to Mogadishu: UNHCR

GENEVA, July 26, 2011 (AFP) - Some 40,000 famine-hit people have fled to the Somali capital Mogadishu over the past month in search of food and water, the UN refugees agency said Tuesday.

"Over the past month, UNHCR figures show that nearly 40,000 Somalis displaced by drought and famine have converged on Mogadishu in search of food, water, shelter and other assistance," said Vivian Tan, spokeswoman for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees.

"A further 30,000 have arrived at settlements around Mogadishu.

"In total, it is estimated that Mogadishu has received up to 100,000 internally displaced people over the last two months. The daily numbers are still around 1,000 in July," added the spokeswoman.

With relief supplies entering the country currently insufficient to cope with needs, the jostle for food "has caused serious crowd crushes and even some looting."

"As a result, some of the weakest and most vulnerable are left with nothing, despite the best efforts of agencies and charities," said the UNHCR.

The UN last week declared famine in two parts of southern Somalia.

According to the UN's Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, some 3,500 Somalis cross the border into neighbouring Kenya and Ethiopia every day, adding to the over 740,000 refugees who have already fled across those borders.

"This creates strain on the fragile semi-arid environment, increases tensions with the local host communities and the risk of fire or the outbreak of diseases," Tan said, speaking of conditions in Kenya.

An estimated 3.7 million people in Somalia -- around a third of the population -- are on the brink of starvation and millions more in Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya and Uganda have been affected by the worst drought in the region in 60 years.

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