UNHCR calls for increased aid for Somalia's suffering civilian population

News Stories, 3 December 2010

© UNHCR/Y.Hassan
High Commissioner António Guterres urges the international community to help Somalis during a fund-raising appeal.

NAIROBI, Kenya, December 3 (UNHCR) UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres has made a passionate appeal for the international community to come to the aid of the long-suffering Somali people.

Speaking Wednesday at the launch in Nairobi of the 2011 Humanitarian Appeal for Somalia, Guterres said the African country was facing the burden of multiple crises that have had a devastating affect on its civilians. The United Nations called for US$530 million for humanitarian aid projects in Somalia next year.

"In Somalia, we face a chronic catastrophic humanitarian situation complicated by a protracted acute emergency," Guterres said. "The suffering endured by the Somali people is appalling and unique in the world," he added.

The High Commissioner drew attention to the humanitarian and human rights dimensions of the Somali situation and called for concerted international action to protect and assist civilians, who have suffered most from two decades of conflict.

Guterres noted that 27 per cent of the population was in need of humanitarian assistance. He said an estimated 1.5 million Somalis were internally displaced, a fifth of whom were uprooted since the start of this year.

More than 400,000 of the 1.5 million displaced people have fled to the so-called Afgooye corridor, stretching west from the Somali capital of Mogadishu. This is the highest concentration of internally displaced people in the world.

The High Commissioner condemned the gross violations of human rights in Somalia, citing the indiscriminate killing and maiming of civilians, the rape of women and the recruitment of child fighters. "The protection of civilians became the first casualty of the Somali conflict," he said here in the Kenyan capital.

Guterres said the crisis in Somalia had become a global problem. The flight of hundreds of thousands of Somalis to neighbouring countries and beyond had created what he described as "the first refugee global population in the world."

While Somali refugees enjoy a high level of protection in some neighbouring countries, UNHCR is concerned about the rejection of refugees and increasing xenophobia in many other countries. "No other refugee population is stigmatized and discriminated against as much as Somali refugees," Guterres said.

The High Commissioner reiterated that the biggest concern facing his agency was the refoulement, or forced return, of Somali refugees to their strife-torn country. He asked states not to shut their doors to Somali asylum-seekers.

Guterres also paid tribute to aid workers who continue to deliver much needed assistance to the Somali people against extreme odds. In the last two years, 47 humanitarian aid workers have been killed in Somalia and 35 kidnapped.

Despite the risks, he said the international community should stay the course and not abandon Somalis in their hour of greatest need. He called for the Somali crisis to be recognized as a humanitarian priority and addressed urgently.

By Yusuf Hassan in Nairobi, Kenya




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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

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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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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.

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