Shelter, household items, foodstuffs, safe drinking water and healthcare have all been identified as priority needs
MOGADISHU – Thousands of Somalis caught up in an ongoing offensive by Somali and African troops against the Al-Shabaab militant group are in dire need of humanitarian assistance, a U.N. agency said Wednesday.
"Most of the humanitarian needs which have arisen so far are related to population movements – either people moving out of towns affected by the military operation or people previously displaced moving back to newly recovered areas," the United Nations Office for Coordination Assistance (OCHA) said in a statement mailed to Anadolu Agency.
Shelter, household items, foodstuffs, safe drinking water and healthcare have all been identified as priority needs.
Government troops, backed by peacekeepers from the African Union Mission to Somalia (AMISOM), have recently retaken a number of southern and central regions from militant forces.
But thousands of people are believed to have been displaced in the ongoing military offensive, which began earlier this month.
According to the U.N. agency, fleeing civilians face security risks – both in their places of origin and their places of refuge – given the fluid security situation.
President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud has called for immediate humanitarian assistance for thousands of people in southern areas of the country recently liberated from Al-Shabaab militants.
In November, Mohamud vowed that 2014 would see the end of the Al-Qaeda-allied militant group.
Al-Shabaab was expelled from Mogadishu in 2011 but remains in control of several small towns in the country's south.
The U.N. agency has also raised the alarm over food security as the military operation continues.
"The ongoing military offensive could disrupt the early start of the planting season, which could in turn have a negative impact on the annual harvest in August/September 2014, particularly in the agricultural zones of the Shabelles, the Jubas and the sorghum belts of Bay and Bakool," OCHA warned.
According to OCHA, Turkey is the first country to have responded to the situation in the southern and central parts of Somalia.
On Monday, food supplies donated by Turkey were sent in convoys from Mogadishu to affected areas.
Turkey's increased interest in Somalia goes back to 2011 – at the height of the Somali famine – when Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan became the first non-African head of state to visit the country.
Ankara has since offered significant assistance to Somalia, from infrastructure development to food aid.
Somalia has remained in the grip of on-again, off-again violence since the outbreak of civil war in 1991.
The country had appeared to inch closer to stability with the recent installation of a new government and the intervention of African Union troops tasked with combatting the Al-Shabaab insurgency.
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