UNHCR relocates first Somali refugees from Dadaab to Kakuma

Briefing Notes, 18 August 2009

This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson Andrej Mahecic to whom quoted text may be attributed at the press briefing, on 18 August 2009, at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

We have started relocating the first of some 12,900 Somali refugees from the overcrowded Dadaab refugee complex in north-eastern Kenya to Kakuma camp in the north-west. The first 311 refugees arrived in Kakuma on this weekend (15 August) after a three day journey by road. Another convoy of 13 buses with 520 refugees left Dadaab for Kakuma yesterday. The movement of the refugees is being handled by the International Organization for Migration (IOM).

The relocation of the refugees from Dadaab to Kakuma is part of a multi- phase plan to alleviate the chronic overcrowding in the eighteen year old Dadaab refugee camps, which currently host more than three times the population they were initially designed to accommodate. The move is scheduled to be completed by the end of October, before the start of the rainy season. In addition, in order to improve the living conditions of the refugees in Dadaab, UNHCR is working on upgrading of the aging water and sanitation systems, increasing the health services and providing adequate shelter and nutrition as well as providing more funding to support the local communities neighbouring the camps.

Upon arrival in Kakuma, the refugees were provided with blankets, sleeping mats and kitchen sets, before being transferred to their new accommodation.

The escalating violence and humanitarian crisis in Somalia has driven thousands of Somalis out of their homes, many of whom have fled to the neighbouring and nearby countries. Since January, over 43,000 Somali refugees have sought refuge in the Dadaab camps, bringing the total number of refugees in the three camps to a record 289,500.

At the same time, we are seriously concerned about the deteriorating security situation in Somalia. The continued abductions, killing and intimidation of aid workers and the pillaging of humanitarian facilities and supplies, is making it increasingly difficult to reach and access the needy population. The situation is having an adverse impact on delivery of aid to internally displaced people (IDPs) who are in dire need of humanitarian assistance.

UNHCR provides protection and assistance to more than 510,000 refugees in the nearby countries of Kenya, Yemen, Ethiopia, Djibouti and Uganda. There are some 1.3 million IDPs in Somalia, and an estimated 3.2 million people who are in urgent need of humanitarian assistance.




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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

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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.

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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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