Somalia displacement update
This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson Ron Redmond – to whom quoted text may be attributed – at the press briefing, on 21 July 2009, at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.
As the number of Somali civilians driven out of their homes by the conflict in Mogadishu rises, growing insecurity is making it increasingly difficult for aid workers to gain access and provide assistance to latest victims of the Somali civil war.
We now estimate that some 223,000 people have fled Mogadishu since the 7 May, when Al-Shabaab and Hisb-ul-Islam militia groups jointly launched attacks against government forces in several districts of the Somali capital. About 20,000 have fled in the last two weeks alone.
We are greatly concerned about the plight of the large number of internally displaced people (IDP) who have found refuge in the sweltering makeshift sites on the Afgooye Corridor, southwest of the capital, sheltering more than 400,000 IDPs from previous conflicts. These IDPs are packed in a congested strip of land with little or no basic facilities.
Our local partners in Somalia report that domestic humanitarian organizations are overstretched and struggling to meet the basic needs of the newly arrived. There is a lack of adequate shelter, sanitation facilities and clean drinking water. The situation has grown worse following recent torrential rains. The lack of sufficient latrines poses a major health risk.
The continued fighting and worsening of the security situation in Somalia is hampering the timely delivery of humanitarian assistance from the port of Mogadishu to Afgooye and other parts of Somalia, exacerbating one of the world's worst humanitarian crises.
This week's scheduled distribution of 4,000 UNHCR aid kits in Mogadishu and outlying areas, for example, had to be postponed due to security concerns
In addition, due to the latest incidents in Baidoa and Wajid, where militants occupied and looted two UN compounds yesterday, our assistance efforts in the adjacent region have virtually ground to a halt.
We again appeal to the warring parties in Somalia to respect basic international humanitarian and human rights principles and to guarantee the safety and security of the civilian population as well as for the humanitarian workers trying to help the victims.
Meanwhile in north-eastern Kenya, we continue to experience a major influx of new arrivals from Somalia in the UNHCR-run Dadaab refugee complex. Since January, we have received 39,000 refugees from Somalia despite the fact that the Kenya-Somalia border remains officially closed. The majority of the refugees are from the Lower and Middle Juba regions and Mogadishu.
Some 7,000 new arrivals were registered at the camps in June, up from 5,000 in May.
UNHCR is deeply concerned about the massive congestion in the three adjacent Kenyan sites that make up the Dadaab complex, and the major health risks that this overcrowding may pose to the refugees. Initially designed to accommodate 90,000 people, the camps are currently hosting more than 286,000 people.