Latest fighting forces more Somalis into displacement

Briefing Notes, 8 April 2011

This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson Adrian Edwards to whom quoted text may be attributed at the press briefing, on 8 April 2011, at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

UNHCR is monitoring a deteriorating situation in south and central Somalia where sporadic fighting has continued to be reported in the towns of Doolow, Bulo Hawo, Luuq, Elwaaq, Dhoobley, Diif and Taabdo. We are again urging all armed groups and forces in Somalia to avoid targeting civilian areas and to ensure that civilians are not being placed in harm's way.

UNHCR estimates that clashes between the forces of the Transitional Federal Government and Al-Shabaab militia have displaced about 33,000 Somalis over the past six weeks. More than half of these are people who have been displaced in Mogadishu. Many are in desperate situations with no access to humanitarian help. Mogadishu already shelters some 372,000 displaced.

In all more than 1.4 million people are displaced inside Somalia. Some of the most recently displaced are people who have fled shelling in Dhoobley, a town just across the border from Liboi in northern Kenya. Dhoobley acts as a final stop-off point for people fleeing Somalia for the Dadaab refugee complex in neighbouring Kenya. According to local sources, the town and its surrounding areas remain tense. Pro-government forces have been consolidating their control of the town, which they took earlier this week.

In Bulo Hawo, a Somali town across the border from Mandera in north-west Kenya, people are in desperate need of shelter. Our staff report that 150 permanent shelters and some 400 to 500 temporary structures were destroyed during recent shelling. The market area has also been destroyed and many people are sleeping outside.

Several local non-governmental organizations have carried out rapid assessments in Elwaaq and Dhoobley. Security and access permitting, we hope our teams will be able, as part of joint UN assessment missions, to visit these and other towns and villages and plan distributions of aid. At the end of March we were able to distribute some 3,000 aid kits to people who had returned to Bulo Hawo after the recent shelling. These kits include plastic sheeting for shelter, blankets, sleeping mats, basic cooking utensils and soap.

Meanwhile, the number of Somali arrivals in Kenya has been steadily growing over the past three months. More than 31,000 Somalis have arrived in Kenya this year alone. Kenya hosts more than half of the 680,000 Somalis who live as refugees in neighboring countries.

For further information on this topic, please contact:

In Nairobi, Kenya (Somalia Ops): Roberta Russo on mobile +254 73 3121 136

Andreas Needham on mobile +254 733 120 931

In Geneva: Andrej Mahecic on mobile +41 79 200 7617




UNHCR country pages

Crossing the Gulf of Aden

Every year thousands of people in the Horn of Africa - mainly Somalis and Ethiopians - leave their homes out of fear or pure despair, in search of safety or a better life. They make their way over dangerous Somali roads to Bossaso in the northern semi-autonomous region of Puntland.

In this lawless area, smuggler networks have free reign and innocent and desperate civilians pay up to US$150 to make the perilous trip across the Gulf of Aden.

Some stay weeks on end in safe houses or temporary homes in Bossaso before they can depart. A sudden call and a departure in the middle of the night, crammed in small unstable boats. At sea, anything can happen to them - they are at the whim of smugglers. Some people get beaten, stabbed, killed and thrown overboard. Others drown before arriving on the beaches of Yemen, which have become the burial ground for hundreds who many of those who died en route.

Crossing the Gulf of Aden


In February 2005, one of the last groups of Somalilander refugees to leave Aisha refugee camp in eastern Ethiopia boarded a UNHCR convoy and headed home to Harrirad in North-west Somalia - the self-declared independent state of Somaliland. Two years ago Harrirad was a tiny, sleepy village with only 67 buildings, but today more than 1,000 people live there, nearly all of whom are former refugees rebuilding their lives.

As the refugees flow back into Somalia, UNHCR plans to close Aisha camp by the middle of the year. The few remaining refugees in Aisha - who come from southern Somalia - will most likely be moved to the last eastern camp, Kebribeyah, already home to more than 10,000 refugees who cannot go home to Mogadishu and other areas in southern Somalia because of continuing lawlessness there. So far refugees have been returning to only two areas of the country - Somaliland and Puntland in the north-east.


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

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