Hundreds of Somalis continue to flee into Kenya

Clashes between rival militias in Somalia force thousands of civilians to live in desperate conditions.

Ongoing violence in Somalia has forced more than two million people to flee their homes. Most are displaced within Somalia while others live as refugees in neighboring countries.   © UNHCR/R. Gangale

GENEVA, October 29, (UNHCR) - The UN refugee agency expressed concern Friday over what it described as a "fast deteriorating" humanitarian situation along the northern part of the Kenya-Somalia border.

Speaking to reporters, UNHCR spokesperson Adrian Edwards said hundreds of people in Somalia are continuing to flee clashes between Al-Shabaab and Ahlu Sunna Wal Jamaa, a militia group allied to the transitional Somali Government, in the Somali border town of Beled Hawo.

"As of yesterday, more than 7,100 refugees were squatting at the Border Point One site, some 500 meters from the Kenya Somali border," said Edwards. "These are mostly women, children and the elderly. Their security and health conditions are deteriorating by the hour. Some have been camping out in the open at Border Point One since 17 October when the fighting broke out."

On Thursday, a truck belonging to a UNHCR partner agency, Islamic Relief Worldwide, was shot at while delivering supplies to those sheltering at the settlement. The incident resulted in a temporary suspension of aid distribution as the security situation was assessed. Relief work resumed Friday morning.

UNHCR is also carrying out health screening so that the sick can be given immediate treatment. Shelter is a pressing concern as it has been raining for days in the region.

Edwards said many lives would be a risk if clashes between the two militias were to resume. The agency is urging the Kenyan authorities to allow the relocation of those living in the settlement, which is on the Somali side of the border, as soon as possible.

Earlier in the week, together with the Kenyan authorities, UNHCR identified a suitable site called in Garbakole, some 11 kilometers inside Kenya. Permission from government authorities to begin moving those displaced by the fighting is still pending.