Some 45,000 Somali civilians flee Mogadishu in past two weeks

News Stories, 20 May 2009

© UNHCR/A.Webster
A group of internally displaced Somalis. Many live in very harsh conditions.

NAIROBI, Kenya, May 20 (UNHCR) Despite a lull in fighting in Mogadishu, the number of people fleeing the Somali capital in the last 12 days has risen to 45,000. Intense fighting between government forces and the opposition Al-Shabaab and Hisb-ul-Islam groups erupted in several areas of north-west Mogadishu on May 8.

A significant proportion of the displaced are heading towards the Afgooye corridor, south-west of Mogadishu, swelling the ranks of the sprawling, makeshift camps that have sprung up there in the last two years. These sites already host an estimated 400,000 people.

But many others could not afford to make the 30 kilometre journey and have moved to the relatively safe neighbourhoods of Dharkeynley and Deyninle in the south-west of Mogadishu.

Some of the displaced say they do not believe they will ever return to a peaceful Mogadishu. Others who had recently returned home to start afresh after years of refugee life in neighbouring countries are deeply disappointed.

They told UNHCR's local partners in Somalia of the hurdles they had to scale to reach a safe point, navigating several roadblocks and getting stuck for days on roads made impassable by heavy rains. Many of them are joined by relatives who have endured two harsh years in sites for internally displaced people (IDP) and who lack proper shelter and sufficient food.

The deteriorating security situation has sharply decreased humanitarian space in the conflict area, hampering the delivery of aid to the displaced. Even local agencies that have often provided a lifeline to the IDPs are encountering new risks as they try to help out the needy.

One of the most urgent needs is shelter and other non-food items, which humanitarian agencies led by UNHCR plan to provide first to more than 100,000 people in the Afgooye corridor and neighbourhoods in north-west Mogadishu, and afterwards to people in other areas of the city as soon as security permits.

At the same time, the number of Somali refugees fleeing to Kenya or across the Gulf of Aden to Yemen is rising daily. The number of civilians in north-east Kenya's Dadaab refugee complex has reached a record 272,800, mostly Somalis. This is three times the number for which Dadaab was originally designed, putting enormous pressure on camp facilities and straining its resources.

To avert a humanitarian crisis, UNHCR has repeatedly appealed to the Kenyan authorities to allocate additional land to help decongest the camp, and to donors for more funds to assist the growing number of refugees fleeing the conflict in Somalia. UNHCR also plans to transfer 10,000 refugees to Kakuma camp in north-west Kenya to help reduce the overcrowding in Dadaab.

However, the refugee agency has yet to hear from the government of Kenya on the land allocation, while on funding, UNHCR's Kenya operation is experiencing serious shortfalls, with just US$16.5 million out of a total original appeal of US$91.6 million received for the Emergency Assistance Programme for Somali Refugees in Dadaab.

UNHCR provides protection and assistance to more than 499,000 Somali refugees in nearby countries, including Kenya (292,194), Yemen (142,394), Ethiopia (40,439), Uganda (8,889) Djibouti (8,741), Eritrea (4,636) and Tanzania (1,527). It also coordinates protection and shelter activities for Somalia's 1.3 million internally displaced in Somalia.

By Roberta Russo in Nairobi, Kenya

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Flood Airdrop in Kenya

Over the weekend, UNHCR with the help of the US military began an emergency airdrop of some 200 tonnes of relief supplies for thousands of refugees badly hit by massive flooding in the Dadaab refugee camps in northern Kenya.

In a spectacular sight, 16 tonnes of plastic sheeting, mosquito nets, tents and blankets, were dropped on each run from the C-130 transport plane onto a site cleared of animals and people. Refugees loaded the supplies on trucks to take to the camps.

Dadaab, a three-camp complex hosting some 160,000 refugees, mainly from Somalia, has been cut off from the world for a month by heavy rains that washed away the road connecting the remote camps to the Kenyan capital, Nairobi. Air transport is the only way to get supplies into the camps.

UNHCR has moved 7,000 refugees from Ifo camp, worst affected by the flooding, to Hagadera camp, some 20 km away. A further 7,000 refugees have been moved to higher ground at a new site, called Ifo 2.

Posted in December 2006

Flood Airdrop in Kenya

New Arrivals in Yemen

During one six-day period at the end of March, more than 1,100 Somalis and Ethiopians arrived on the shores of Yemen after crossing the Gulf of Aden on smuggler's boats from Bosaso, Somalia. At least 28 people died during these recent voyages – from asphyxiation, beating or drowning – and many were badly injured by the smugglers. Others suffered skin problems as a result of prolonged contact with sea water, human waste, diesel oil and other chemicals.

During a recent visit to Yemen, UNHCR Assistant High Commissioner for Protection Erika Feller pledged to further raise the profile of the situation, to appeal for additional funding and international action to help Yemen, and to develop projects that will improve the living conditions and self sufficiency of the refugees in Yemen.

Since January 2006, Yemen has received nearly 30,000 people from Somalia, Ethiopia and other places, while more than 500 people have died during the sea crossing and at least 300 remain missing. UNHCR provides assistance, care and housing to more than 100,000 refugees already in Yemen.

New Arrivals in Yemen

The Gulf of Aden: Sharp Rise in Crossings and Deaths

The number of people arriving on the coast of Yemen after being smuggled across the treacherous Gulf of Aden from the Horn of Africa has more than doubled this year. So far this year, more than 18,000 people have arrived in Yemen across the Gulf of Aden, and nearly 400 have died attempting the journey.

This surge in arrivals is largely due to the continuing conflict in Somalia and the use of new smuggling routes from Somalia to Yemen and across the Red Sea from Djibouti. Many of the new arrivals also tell of crop losses due to drought, which forced them to leave home. This photo set focuses on those people leaving from Djibouti.

UNHCR has been calling for increased action to save lives in the Gulf of Aden and other waters. We have stepped up our work in Yemen under a US$17 million operation that includes extra staff, provision of additional shelter and assistance, and protection for refugees and internally displaced people.

Posted on 20 May 2008

The Gulf of Aden: Sharp Rise in Crossings and Deaths

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