UNHCR boosts aid delivery inside Somalia

News Stories, 19 July 2011

© UNHCR/R.Gangale
An extended family of 18 people arrives in Galkayo after fleeing the drought in Buale in south-central Somalia. It took them six days to come by bus.

GENEVA, July 19 (UNHCR) The UN refugee agency is increasing the delivery of emergency aid in Somalia's south and west while tracking the movement of people into neighbouring countries in order to improve assistance.

Working with local partners, UNHCR has distributed aid packages to some 90,000 people in Mogadishu and Belet Hawa and Dobley in south-west Somalia. These packages consist of plastic sheets, blankets, kitchen sets and jerry cans, among other items.

Starting Tuesday, more relief items will be distributed to an estimated 126,000 people in other parts of the Gedo and Lower Juba regions. Assistance also on its way to Mogadishu and the Afgooye corridor, as well as further south-west in Lower Shabelle.

Twenty years of conflict has brought lawlessness and anarchy to large parts of Somalia, especially the south-central areas.

"Currently, the situation for humanitarian workers in Somalia is far from ideal," said UNHCR spokesman Adrian Edwards at a news briefing in Geneva on Tuesday. "We need better access and assurances that the humanitarian character of our work is respected."

Negotiations over humanitarian access in Somalia are being done collectively by the United Nations, said Raouf Mazou, Deputy Director of UNHCR's desk for East and Horn of Africa, Chad and Sudan. "Some assurances have been given but they have to be tested," he said.

Continuing violence, compounded by natural disasters and waves of drought, has displaced more than a quarter of Somalia's population of 7.5 million. Over 160,000 Somalis have fled into neighbouring Djibouti, Ethiopia and Kenya so far this year, while nearly 1.5 million people have been uprooted within Somalia.

Tukaay Siyaadow Isaak, aged 47 and a mother of eight children, fled Baidoia in central Somalia and travelled 20 days to reach Galkayo further north. The family has now settled in Bulo Kontrol settlement for internally displaced people.

"We decided to move when all our livestock died with the drought. We came here because we needed to survive. The journey was long and terrible. We had to depend on well-wishers to survive," she said. "Some went to Dadaab [in Kenya] while others went to other places in Somalia. I chose to come here because Dadaab isn't my home country. Even then, I don't know anyone here. I'm totally confused. I don't know what will happen."

Somalis who crossed into neighbouring countries are being accommodated in overcrowded refugee camps.

Dr Paul Spiegel, who heads the Public Health and HIV section at UNHCR, was recently in the border area of Dolo Ado in Ethiopia. He told Geneva-based journalists that the recent arrivals in Kobe camp are in very bad state. "In June, the camp saw 7.4 deaths in every 10,000 people per day, or about 15 times the normal baseline rate in sub-Saharan Africa." More than half of the camp's population is acutely malnourished.

In June, the [Kobe] camp saw 7.4 deaths in every 10,000 people per day, or about 15 times the normal baseline rate in sub-Saharan Africa.

Dr Paul Spiegel
UNHCR Public Health and HIV section

Dr Spiegel added that health conditions have improved in July, "possibly because the refugees are leaving earlier and not waiting until the last possible moment", and due to blanket feeding and a focus on treating the most vulnerable malnourished children under the age of five years. Other challenges in the Dolo Ado area include a severe shortage of water and latrines for the large numbers of new refugees.

In the meantime, UNHCR is strengthening its mechanisms for tracking population movement and protection monitoring in the corridors leading to the Dolo Ado and Dadaab refugee camps in Ethiopia and Kenya respectively. It is hoped that shorter interval reporting will allow UNHCR and other aid agencies to inform emergency interventions.

"Given the very serious health state of many refugees arriving at camps in neighbouring countries, UNHCR believes it is of life-saving importance that people in Somalia are able to get help where they are," said Edwards. "This may, in certain circumstances, mitigate the necessity to cross borders into neighbouring countries, where refugee camps are already bursting at the seams. We continue to look at all means to step up our efforts further inside Somalia."




UNHCR country pages

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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