As Somali displacement grows, refugee camps report deaths

Briefing Notes, 22 July 2011

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 22 July 2011, at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

Every day, an average of 1,000 desperate people arrive in Mogadishu seeking help after fleeing famine stricken regions in the South.

Our latest figures show that in July alone, more than 20,000 people have been displaced into Mogadishu in search of assistance. More than half came from Lower Shabelle, one of the regions where famine was declared on Wednesday. Another 2,800 were originated from the Bakool region, whose southern area has also been struck by famine. A further 6,100 people were displaced from the Bay region while almost 1,000 people were displaced from Middle Shabelle.

In response, UNHCR on Wednesday distributed 2,500 emergency assistance packages to internally displaced people in the Dharkenley district of south-west Mogadishu. Delivered through a UNHCR partner, the distribution benefited 15,000 people, identifying and targeting newly-arrived IDPs and vulnerable households such as female-headed families. Each package comprises a UNHCR tarpaulin for shelter, three blankets, a sleeping mat, two jerry cans and a full kitchen set (cooking pots, cutlery etc) and utensils. UNHCR plans to distribute an additional 7,500 packages in the coming weeks.

Throughout Somalia, UNHCR is working to better target aid to the neediest people in areas affected by famine, drought and conflict.

While aid is slowly tricking into Somalia, the outflow of hungry and war-weary refugees is continuing at a high rate. In Kenya's Dadaab camps, we are still receiving about 1,500 new Somali refugees every day, totalling some 60,000 new arrivals so far this year. In total, Kenya has received more than 100,000 Somalis so far this year. In Ethiopia, the Dollo Ado border area is seeing daily arrivals in the hundreds, with over 74,000 arrivals since January. In total, Ethiopia has received a total of nearly 78,000 Somalis so far this year.

More than half of them come from the Gedo, Bay and Bakool areas of south-central Somalia. They say they were either pastoralists or farmers fleeing due to the persistent drought, as well as violence that forced them to abandon their farmlands and livestock.

Many refugees are still arriving in bad shape. Once registered, they are given health screenings. The malnourished and people with medical complications are referred to clinics, including for therapeutic feeding.

Nonetheless, these interventions are sometimes too late. On Tuesday, 15 deaths from malnutrition and other diseases were reported in Dollo Ado's Kobe camp. UNHCR staff in Dadaab are also reporting a rise in the number of deaths due to acute malnutrition, particularly among children.

In Dollo Ado, more than half of the young arrivals are acutely malnourished. While those aged under five are the most vulnerable, UNHCR is also concerned about malnutrition among refugees aged five to 18 years. If treated early and correctly, most malnourished children can recover physically. But the new arrivals with severe acute malnutrition seem to take longer than normal to recover, sometimes up to 6 to 8 weeks. This could be because of the horrendous state they are coming in.

At the Dollo Ado transit centre, UNHCR is providing two hot meals a day for more than 11,000 new arrivals living in makeshift tents. Kobe camp, which opened last month, is already full with over 25,000 refugees. A new camp, Hilaweyn, is nearing completion and will hold up to 60,000 people. We expect to begin moving people from the transit centre within the next two weeks.

Overcrowding is a problem in both Dadaab and Dollo Ado. To ease congestion, UNHCR is continuing its airlift of emergency aid, including tents for more than 75,000 people.

In Kenya, the third of five flights carrying nearly 9,000 family tents from UNHCR stockpiles in Kuwait and Pakistan arrived in Nairobi yesterday afternoon. The cargo was off-loaded onto trucks for the day-long drive by convoy to Dadaab refugee camp near the Kenya-Somalia border. Two more flights are scheduled on Saturday and Monday.

In Ethiopia, the third airlift flight bringing supplies from UNHCR's regional stockpiles in Dubai is expected in Addis Ababa today. Other tents are also coming in by land from neighbouring Djibouti. The tents will go to some 50,000 refugees in the remote Dollo Ado refugee camp on the Ethiopia-Somalia border who are currently in need of shelter. Thirteen UNHCR vehicles are also being flown in.

To date, UNHCR has deployed 60 emergency staff to the region to provide life-saving assistance to the new refugees, with another 11 on the way.

For further information on these topics, please contact:

  • In Nairobi UNHCR regional office: Ron Redmond on mobile +254 734 564 019
  • In Nairobi UNHCR regional office: Needa Jehu-Hoyah on mobile +254 734 564 018
  • In Nairobi UNHCR Kenya office: Emmanuel Nyabera on mobile: +254 773 995 975
  • In Dadaab camp, Kenya: William Spindler on mobile +254 720 095 990
  • In Kenya, UNHCR Somalia Office: Andy Needham on mobile +254 733 120 931
  • In Ethiopia: Milicent Mutuli on mobile +251 911 207 906
  • In Ethiopia: Kisut Gebre Egziabher on mobile +251 911 208 901
  • In Geneva: Melissa Fleming on mobile +41 79 557 9122



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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