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[Published: Sunday April 29 2007]


Geneva , (APA) - The United Nations ChildrensFund (UNICEF) condemned a mortar attack on a hospital in the Somali capital Mogadishu , which has been wracked by escalatingviolence in recent weeks.
We deplore the indiscriminate shelling of a medical facility, said ChristianBalslev-Olesen, UNICEFs Representative in
Somalia . It is an action that is totallyunacceptable and one for which no justification can be given.
According to UN estimates, 340,000 people  roughly one-third of the cityspopulation  have fled the deadly clashes in the capital
Mogadishu since the start of February, and thisnumber is expected to increase as more information becomes available.
Mr. Balslev-Olesen voiced frustration that the agencys efforts to deliverurgently needed relief supplies is being hampered by insecurity. We cannotaccess our warehouses in
Mogadishu and we cannot effectively reach thepeople who need our assistance the most.
According to UNICEF, child protection monitors in the capital report thatchildren have been victims of indiscriminate shooting and shelling.Displacement is also forcing women to leave their children unattended as theysearch for food, water and shelter. The agency is working with its partners onthe ground to identify and reunite hundreds of children who have lost theirparents during the violence with their families.
Since January, almost 17,000 cases of acute watery diarrhoea (AWD) have beenreported in central and southern
Somalia , which includes Mogadishu and surrounding areas. As of mid-April,there have been 593 deaths and nearly 40 confirmed cases of cholera.
UNICEF also appealed for $11.5 million to meet the nutrition, health, educationand protection needs of children affected by the conflict.
The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and other organizations havefinished their first round of supplying aid in the small town of
Afgooye , 30 kilometres west of the capital, andnow home to 35,000 people who escaped the hostilities in Mogadishu .
Among other supplies, the agency provided plastic sheeting to the displaced,who had previously been sleeping under trees.
They now at least have a shelter to protect them and their children from thescorching sun, the chilly nights and the soaking rains, UNHCR spokespersonWilliam Spindler said at a press briefing in
Geneva .
UNHCR plans to begin another phase of distributing relief supplies to help afurther 13,500 people. Supplies were airlifted from
Dubai to the town of Baidoa , 200 kilometres from Afgooye. Truckscarrying the items arrived in Afgooye after being blocked when Ethiopiansoldiers closed a bridge on the towns outskirts.
The agencys Somali staff in the town state that
Mogadishu has become a ghost town, with more thanhalf of its neighbourhoods now deserted.
Meanwhile, according to his spokesperson Michele Montas, Secretary-General BanKi-moon this week informed the Security Council in a letter that he intends toextend the mandate of his Special Representative for the country FrançoisLonsény Fall by one year.
With the renewed mandate, Mr. Fall will serve in his current position until
8 May 2008 . (APA)

AB/APA/ 30 April 2007---

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