Somalia: Widening strife causing increased displacement

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 12 January 2010, at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

The widening strife in Somalia is having a devastating effect on the civilian population and sparking increasing displacement.

Over 150 people were reportedly killed or injured and some 7,000 people displaced in the latest clashes between two rival militia groups, Al Shabaab and Ahlu Sunna Wal Jaama, in Dhusamareb in Galgaduud region of Central Somalia on 2 January. Sketchy reports indicate that the displacement figure might be higher.

Local NGO partners have told UNHCR that the IDPs have fled to some 16 villages around Dhusamareb. Most of them are reported to be living under trees and many children have been taken ill as a result of the cold nights. Fearing renewed fighting, the IDPs have said they have no intention of returning to their homes until the situation stabilizes.

As the security situation does not allow UNHCR's immediate intervention, we are in discussions with our local NGO partners to find ways of delivering assistance to the people displaced by the latest fighting in the quickest time possible.

Many parts of Central Somalia are experiencing an upsurge in fighting, including parts of the capital Mogadishu and Beled Weyne, the regional capital of Hiraan region. Due to the continued conflict, the civilian population is extremely vulnerable, as services and livelihood have been badly interrupted and are increasingly limited.

Meanwhile, the number of Somalis streaming into the neighbouring countries has also increased.

Some 3,000 Somalis were registered as refugees in Ethiopia in December alone. The estimated rate of new arrivals has gone up from 100 to 150 a day.

The Bokolmanyo refugee camp in south-eastern Ethiopia, which was established only nine months ago now hosts over 22,000 Somali refugees, and is already full to capacity. We have registered some 4,000 new refugees at the Dolo Ado transit centre on the Ethiopia-Somalia border, pending their relocation to a second camp that UNHCR is developing to respond to the growing influx from Somalia.

In Kenya, 4,175 Somalis have been registered as refugees in the Dadaab refugee complex since December.

More than 110,000 Somalis sought asylum in Kenya (55,000), Yemen (32,000), Ethiopia (22,000) and Djibouti (3,000) in 2009, bringing the total number of Somali refugees in the region to over 560,000.

Aid agencies fear that the growing insecurity, the drought and the suspension of food aid in south central regions could deepen Somalia's humanitarian crisis and trigger large-scale influx into the neighbouring and nearby countries.