Women, children bear brunt as Mogadishu influx swells to 100,000

Briefing Notes, 26 July 2011

This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson Vivian Tan to whom quoted text may be attributed at the press briefing, on 26 July 2011, at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

Over the past month, UNHCR figures show that nearly 40,000 Somalis displaced by drought and famine have converged on Mogadishu in search of food, water, shelter and other assistance. A further 30,000 have arrived at settlements 50 kms from the centre of the capital. In total, it is estimated that Mogadishu has received up to 100,000 internally displaced people (IDPs) over the last two months. The number is growing by the day, with daily arrivals averaging 1,000 in July.

One of the biggest settlements in Mogadishu is Badbado, 9 kms west of Mogadishu on the road to Afgooye. Yesterday (Monday), the UNHCR's Somalia country representative and our head of office in Mogadishu visited IDPs in the Badbado settlement, currently home to an estimated 28,000 people (approximately 5,000 families). More are arriving every day from drought- and famine-affected areas of southern Somalia. Others are being relocated by the municipal authorities from settlements within the city centre.

Our colleagues got a first-hand view of the desperation of hungry, displaced people as they jostled for food being distributed by local charities. Given the growing numbers of displaced people in search of food assistance, the amounts being delivered are not sufficient to meet all of the needs. This has caused serious crowd crushes and even some looting. As a result, some of the weakest and most vulnerable are left with nothing, despite the best efforts of agencies and charities.

Our Somalia country representative, Bruno Geddo, spoke with a mother who had travelled for 11 days from the famine-affected Bakool region with her five children to seek assistance. However, due to the limited availability of food, she is forced to beg almost daily to provide for her family. He also spoke with an elderly man who came from Lower Shabelle, also declared famine-affected, after all his cattle died. The man said he was unable to push his way through the crowds, so was often left without food aid donated by a charity and organised by local business people.

Even if people are able to obtain the food and water being distributed, they often lack even the most basic containers to carry it. Often, they must haul food and water in plastic bags. To address this need, UNHCR will begin distribution of 4,000 assistance packages for 24,000 people in the coming week. This includes jerry cans, buckets, pots, plates, bowls, cups and other utensils so that they can carry the food and water they receive. We also provided a large marquee tent so that a health centre can be established in the Badbado settlement. Geddo said living conditions there are very difficult, as is the protection situation. UNHCR has already distributed shelter materials, including plastic sheeting, in Badbado.

So far this year, inside South Central Somalia, UNHCR has distributed over 17,000 emergency assistance packages benefiting 102,000 people. In the coming days, a further 19,000 packages will be distributed, containing essential items such as plastic sheeting for shelter, sleeping mats and blankets, buckets and jerry cans for water, kitchen sets, utensils, plates and cups for food to 114,000 people. Another 40,000 packages containing high-energy biscuits, oral re-hydration solution and water purification tablets, are being procured by UNHCR and will reach an estimated 240,000 people in the forthcoming days.

Kenya

In Kenya, UNHCR yesterday began an operation to relocate Somali refugees currently living on the outskirts of the Dadaab refugee camps to a new site known as the Ifo Extension. Over 500 five-person family tents were erected, with a capacity to accommodate at least 2,500 people. Some families have already moved in. More are expected to move in today and tomorrow as this relocation continues. A second site, known as Kambioos, will also open in the next few days, to help decongest the outskirts of Dagahaley refugee camp.

The Dadaab camps have been receiving an average of 1,300 new refugees daily, fleeing conflict, drought, famine and insecurity in Somalia. The Somali refugees are arriving in an appalling state of health, dehydrated and severely malnourished, especially children.

Most of the new arrivals settle spontaneously in the outskirts outside the established boundaries of the three existing Dadaab camps -- Dagahaley, Ifo and Hagadera -- in land that is not suitable for habitation. The Ifo outskirts alone currently have some 35,000 Somalis living rough. This creates strain on the fragile semi-arid environment, increases tensions with the local host communities and the risk of fire or the outbreak of diseases. The area is also prone to flooding in the rainy season.

On July 14, the Kenyan Prime Minister announced that a long-planned extension of the Ifo camp could open, helping to decongest Dadaab. Pending ongoing preparations for the full opening of this extension, UNHCR is helping refugee families who had previously already begun moving to the new site on their own.

We again thank Kenya for the incredible generosity it has shown refugees in this crisis and over the decades, and again stress the need for international solidarity in supporting it and other host countries that are carrying such an enormous burden.

Ethiopia

In Ethiopia, the overall nutrition situation in the remote Dollo Ado camps near the Somali border remains a concern. Malnutrition levels among new arrivals are still high. One in three children under five arriving from Somalia is severely malnourished. At present, approximately 30 percent of children under five in the transit centre and Dollo Ado's Kobe camp are under treatment for severe malnutrition. In Malkadida camp, 33 percent of children under five are under treatment for acute malnutrition, compared to 22 percent in Bokolmanyo the third camp in Dollo Ado complex.

UNHCR and its partners are responding to address the situation. Save the Children (USA) has started twice-daily supplementary feeding at the transit centre for all children under five years of age, many of them severely weakened by hunger and the long walk from Somalia. Some families are now reporting having walked up to five weeks to Dollo Ado.

In addition, all refugees waiting to be registered and transferred to the refugee camps are receiving two hot meals a day. A total of 26,000 meals are currently being prepared for the more than 13,000 refugees at the transit centre. Previously food was provided to meet the needs of refugees at the transit centre for only one week.

As of Friday, there were 114,646 Somalis in the Dollo Ado area camps. This is in addition to another 41,000 in the Jijiga area where smaller numbers are arriving. This brings the total number of Somali refugees in Ethiopia to over 156,000. Arrival numbers have dropped to several hundred a day from 2,000 daily a month ago. Kobe camp, which just opened in June, is now full with more than 25,000 people. A new camp, Hilaweyn, for up to 60,000 is nearing completion, although progress has been slowed by the rocky landscape which makes digging of latrines difficult. We hope the camp can be opened in the next two weeks.

Learn more about the crisis in Somalia and how to contribute by visiting the UNHCR Horn of Africa emergency site. For the latest updates follow us on Facebook or Twitter.

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 +254 715 455 992

  • 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: Vivian Tan on mobile +41 79 881 9174

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