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

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.

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

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