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U.N. seeks $48 million to help fleeing Somalis

  • Story Highlights
  • United Nations estimates 500,000 uprooted from Somalia
  • U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees makes funding appeal of $48 million
  • U.N. says number of displaced people probably will continue to rise
  • Horn of Africa country has been plagued by 16 years of anarchy
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GENEVA, Switzerland (Reuters) -- The United Nations on Tuesday appealed for $48 million to help Somalis fleeing renewed violence and said the overall number of people uprooted from the Horn of Africa country was now estimated at 500,000.

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These Somalis are among the displaced people at a U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees camp in Yemen.

More than 10,000 people fled the capital, Mogadishu, last week, many of them now living in "deplorable conditions" with limited access to food, clean water and medicines, according to the U.N. Children's Fund, or UNICEF.

The funding appeal by the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees aims to provide aid to internally displaced Somalis and Somali refugees crossing into Kenya, Ethiopia, Yemen and Djibouti through the end of 2008, a statement said.

"This is particularly concerning people who have been newly displaced since the beginning of the year because of the renewed conflict in the country," U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees spokeswoman Jennifer Pagonis told a briefing.

"We also expect the number of displaced people will probably continue to rise," she added.

The U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees estimated the current number of displaced within Somalia at 438,000, some 250,000 of them around Mogadishu, which saw the worst fighting in two decades last March and April.

The overall number of displaced -- including new Somali refugees who recently fled to neighboring countries -- stands at some 500,000 and could rise further, it said.

Peace talks opened a week ago in the Horn of Africa country of some 7 million people, which has been plagued by 16 years of anarchy.

Reconciling rival clans is a key aim of a major conference in Mogadishu, which the interim government hopes will bolster its legitimacy and win it needed support to bring peace among Somalia's myriad factions.

Somali government forces and allied Ethiopian troops have been a target of regular attacks in the Bakara market, which is home to one of the world's biggest open-air weapons markets and is suspected of being a hideout for Islamist insurgents.

"Closure of the Bakara market makes us fear that food stuffs that are already difficult to find will become even more so," UNICEF spokeswoman Veronique Taveau told the briefing.

Many of the 10,000 people who have fled Mogadishu in the past week live in "deplorable conditions" marked by a lack of access to food, clean water, housing and medical care, she said.

UNICEF's ability to reach the needy and provide aid has been hampered by closed roads and "total insecurity," she added.

Severe drought, floods and armed conflict have disrupted the precarious livelihoods of many Somalis, exacerbating tribal conflicts over limited resources, the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees said in its appeal.

"The humanitarian situation, mainly in south and central Somalia, deteriorated further during the first quarter of 2007," the U.N. High Commissioner said in its appeal document, which was presented to officials from donor countries in Geneva on Monday.

The agency hoped for better access for aid delivery in these areas, Pagonis said.

Some 315,000 Somalis who previously fled turmoil already live in neighboring countries, according to the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

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