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Number of Mogadishu civilians displaced by fighting since early May tops 200,000

News Stories, 7 July 2009

© UNHCR/E.Hockstein
Thousands of Somali refugees, like these, continue to arrive in Kenya.

NAIROBI, Kenya, July 7 (UNHCR) The number of people displaced since early May by the escalating conflict in Mogadishu has reached 204,000, making it the biggest exodus from the troubled Somali capital since the Ethiopian intervention two years ago.

The eight-week-long offensive led by the Al-Shabab and Hisb-ul-Islam militia against government forces is having a devastating impact on the city's population, causing enormous suffering as well as the massive displacement. The fighting in the past week has killed some 105 people and injured 382, according to reports from UNHCR's local partners in Somalia.

"We are concerned about the way the fighting continues to affect civilians and create further displacement in an environment of total impunity," said UNHCR Representative to Somalia Guillermo Bettocchi.

Neighbourhoods affected by the fighting include Kaaran, Shibis, Shangaani and Boondheere in northern Mogadishu. These areas have hitherto been islands of peace, escaping much of the conflict and destruction. Many residents are fleeing their homes for the first time since the start of the Somali civil war in 1991.

We are concerned about the way the fighting continues to affect civilians and create further displacement in an environment of total impunity.

Guillermo Bettocchi, UNHCR Representative to Somalia

While many of the displaced were fleeing to the Afgooye corridor, some 30 kilometres west of Mogadishu, which already hosts more than 400,000 victims of previous conflicts, the majority are now heading further afield to the Lower and Middle Shabelle, Galgaduud, Bay and Lower Juba regions. Estimates place the number of internally displaced in Somalia at more than 1.2 million.

A local UNHCR partner last week distributed aid kits containing blankets, plastic sheeting, kitchen sets, jerry cans and sanitary towels to 14,000 displaced Somalis in the Afgooye corridor and Mogadishu. This week, UNHCR plans to distribute another 4,000 kits, security permitting.

On Saturday, armed militiamen attacked and looted the office of a UNHCR partner in northern Mogadishu. Four aid workers were severely injured in the attack and another was abducted.

Meanwhile, despite the fact that the Kenyan border is officially closed and Kenyan authorities are not allowing asylum-seekers to cross into Kenya, the number of people arriving in the UNHCR-run Dadaab refugee complex situated near the Somali border in north-eastern Kenya continues to rise.

Since May, more than 11,000 Somali refugees have been registered at Dadaab, bringing to 36,000 the number of Somali refugees who have arrived there since the beginning of the year. According to UNHCR, the actual number of new arrivals is much higher since many of them head directly to urban centres like Nairobi, Mombasa and Garissa. Dadaab refugee complex now hosts more than 284,300 refugees.

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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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