Conflict and drought force more than 50,000 Somalis to flee to Kenya this year

News Stories, 25 September 2009

© UNHCR/E.Hockstein
Helping Somalis: Newly arrived refugees wait to register in Dadaab, Kenya. The flow of arrivals shows no signs of slowing.

NAIROBI, Kenya, September 25 (UNHCR) More than 50,000 Somali civilians have fled to Kenya since the beginning of the year to escape continuing fighting and a prolonged drought.

The refugees have been arriving in north-east Kenya at an average rate of 6,400 a month, adding more pressure on the severely stretched facilities and resources in the Dadaab complex of camps, which currently host three times the population they were designed to hold.

In mid-August, UNHCR embarked on a programme aimed at decongesting Dadaab and started the relocation of some 12,900 refugees to Kakuma camp in north-west Kenya. Almost 9,600 refugees have been transported to Kakuma since then, but the camp population in Dadaab remains virtually unchanged. There are now 281,600 Somali refugees there.

A convoy of 13 buses carrying 650 refugees left Dadaab on Wednesday and arrived in Kakuma today. The relocation, which is being implemented by the International Organization for Migration (IOM), is expected to be completed by October 7.

Meanwhile, after a prolonged drought, several parts of Kenya are experiencing torrential rains. Meteorologists have forecast that Kenya will be hit by the El Nino weather phenomenon. This raises fears that the three camps at Dadaab could become heavily flooded in the coming weeks, posing considerable health risks to the refugees.

Inside Somalia, deadly clashes between government forces and rebel groups have forced some 250,000 Somalis out of their homes in the capital, Mogadishu, since May. Most have sought refuge in the Afgooye corridor, some 30 kilometres west of the capital. These makeshift sites are now home to more than 524,000 internally displaced people (IDPs) living in squalid conditions as humanitarian organizations face enormous hurdles in reaching them.

The deteriorating security situation and prolonged drought in Somalia are forcing more people to flee into the neighbouring countries and beyond. Using unscrupulous smugglers, thousands risk their lives and take the perilous journey across the Gulf of Aden and the Red Sea to reach Yemen, or across the Mediterranean Sea to get to Europe.

Not all make it to their destination. Last week, 16 people died and 49 others went missing, presumed drowned in the Gulf of Aden. Since January, a total of 924 boats and more than 46,700 people have made the journey to Yemen from the Horn of Africa. So far this year 322 others are known to have drowned or gone missing at sea.

Somalia is one of the world's biggest refugee and IDP producing countries. UNHCR provides protection and assistance to more than 515,000 Somali refugees in the nearby countries of Kenya, Yemen, Ethiopia, Djibouti and Uganda. The UN estimates that there are 3.8 million Somalis in urgent need of humanitarian assistance, including some 1.5 million IDPs.

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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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