The fighting broke out at a distribution site after soldiers tried to steal food meant for refugees and other soldiers stopped them.

Internally displaced Somali women gather with their jerrycans to receive water at a distribution centre organised by a Qatar charity after fleeing from drought-stricken regions in Baidoa, west of Somalia's capital Mogadishu
Internally displaced Somali women gather with their jerrycans to receive water at a distribution centre organised by a Qatar charity after fleeing from drought-stricken regions in Baidoa, west of Somalia's capital Mogadishu

At least 14 people, mostly civilians, were killed on Friday as soldiers clashed over food aid in drought-ravaged Somalia's southwestern city of Baidoa.

The fighting broke out at a distribution site after some soldiers tried to steal food sacks meant for refugees and other soldiers guarding the aid stopped them, said Colonel Isaq Hassan.

At least 20 people were injured. Some were in critical condition, a nurse at Baidoa's main hospital, Mohamed Ahmed, said.

Somalia is one of four countries singled out by the United Nations in a $4.4 billion aid appeal to avert catastrophic hunger and famine, along with Nigeria, South Sudan and Yemen.

The UN has said that together they make up the world's largest humanitarian disaster in more than 70 years.

In search of food and support

Thousands of people have been streaming into Baidoa and other Somali cities in search of food and support, overwhelming local and international aid agencies. More than half a million people across the country have been displaced.

Baidoa now hosts one of the largest populations of displaced people, with more than 142,000 recorded as of mid-May, according to the International Organisation for Migration. The majority of those displaced in Baidoa are children and teens.

"Every single person we have seen is a personal story of tremendous suffering. There is no way to describe it," a visibly shocked UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said during a visit in March to Baidoa, where he saw skeletal men, women and children in a cholera ward. The disease has been a problem with the shortage of clean water.

Drought-stricken families often have to move from one place to another to reach aid agencies that cannot distribute food in areas under the control of Al Shabab, Somalia's homegrown Islamic extremist group that is affiliated to Al Qaeda.

Source: AP