The United Nations' top relief official in Somalia on Thursday expressed concern about the recent hostilities in the Diinsoor region in Southwest Somalia forcing more than 17,400 people mostly women and children to flee their homes.
UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator for Somalia Adam Abdelmoula said most of the displaced people, who are also affected by the ongoing drought emergency, arrived in several locations, including Baidoa, Bay region, Baardheere of Gedo region, and Banadir region.
"Parties to the conflict must ensure that humanitarian workers have unfettered access to all people in need of assistance," Abdelmoula said in a statement issued in Mogadishu, the capital of Somalia.
The UN official said he was extremely concerned about the impact on civilians of the recent hostilities in Diinsoor, noting that humanitarian actors on the ground report that those affected are in urgent need of humanitarian and protection assistance.
He said almost 136,000 people are facing emergency levels of food insecurity in South West State but scaling up response is impeded by access and funding challenges.
"I wish to remind all parties of their obligations under international humanitarian law and the principles of distinction, precaution, and proportionality in the use of force. I urge them to uphold these obligations including the protection of civilians," Abdelmoula said.
He said the situation is coming at a time when the country is facing the longest sequence of poor rainy seasons since 1981, with some regions experiencing extremely dry conditions, following the failure of the October-December 2021 rainy season.
According to the UN, about 4.3 million people are affected by the drought, of whom more than 554,000 have been displaced in search of food, water, and pasture. It warned that Somalia is staring at a potential catastrophe with the next rainy season not expected until April.