Upsurge in fighting drives more Somalis from Mogadishu

Briefing Notes, 12 February 2010

This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson Melissa Fleming to whom quoted text may be attributed at the press briefing, on 12 February 2010, at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

Clashes between government forces and the Al-Shabaab militia in the Somali capital Mogadishu are displacing thousands of civilians. Reportedly, some 24 civilians have been killed and another 40 injured in the latest fighting, which erupted on Wednesday.

Some residents had already begun to stream out of Mogadishu a few days earlier following reports of a major military build-up and a possible government offensive against the armed opposition groups occupying parts of the city. Since the beginning of February, over 8,000 people have left the city to escape the fighting that is said to be raging in several areas, especially in the northern suburbs of Haliwaa, Yaaqshiid and Wardhiigleey. Many have reportedly gone to other relatively safe areas of the capital or to the Afgooye corridor, where there are already an estimated 366,000 people displaced by previous conflicts. The corridor, which stretches some 30 km west of Mogadishu, has one of the largest concentrations of displaced people in the world.

Over a quarter of million civilians have been forced to flee Mogadishu since May 2009 when armed opposition groups first launched attacks aimed at ousting the newly installed transitional government.

We are very concerned about the escalating violence in south and central Somalia including the capital, which is causing large-scale displacement and human suffering. We call upon all parties to the conflict to respect international humanitarian law, breaches of which have been the main cause of displacement in the capital and elsewhere in the last year.

We are stepping up our preparedness to intervene and deliver emergency relief to the affected population as soon as the security situation permits. As with other humanitarian actors, our own access is affected by conflict.

Somalia is one of the countries generating the highest number of displaced people in the world. It has more than 1.4 million IDPs; while over 560,000 Somalis live as refugees in neighbouring and nearby countries.

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

In Kenya, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, António Guterres discusses solutions for Somali refugees.
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Donor support for a specialized maternity-child clinic helps save the lives of displaced Somali mothers.