Somalia displacement update

Briefing Notes, 21 July 2009

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.

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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

Somalia: UN High Commissioner For Refugees In MogadishuPlay video

Somalia: UN High Commissioner For Refugees In Mogadishu

UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres visits Mogadishu, expresses solidarity with Somali people on eve of Ramadan.
Somalia: Solutions For Somali RefugeesPlay video

Somalia: Solutions For Somali Refugees

In Kenya, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, António Guterres discusses solutions for Somali refugees.
Somalia: Saving LivesPlay video

Somalia: Saving Lives

Donor support for a specialized maternity-child clinic helps save the lives of displaced Somali mothers.