UNHCR seeks US$145 million in fresh appeal for Horn of Africa emergency

News Stories, 28 July 2011

© UNHCR/R.Gangale
A Somali mother and child finally find safety after fleeing from their home area earlier this year.

GENEVA, July 28 (UNHCR) The UN refugee agency on Thursday appealed for an extra US$8.6 million to expand its humanitarian assistance in the East and Horn of Africa. This comes as severe famine and continuing violence aggravate the mass displacement of people both inside Somalia and across its borders.

UNHCR's revised requirements to respond to the emergency inside Somalia and the refugee crisis it has spawned in Ethiopia and Kenya now stand at US$144.9 million up from the original appeal of US$136.3 million issued in early July.

In Somalia, the additional funds will enable UNHCR to scale up its assistance and deliver relief supplies such as plastic sheeting, kitchen utensils, blankets, jerry cans and high-energy biscuits to some 180,000 people, most of them displaced by a combination of famine, drought and conflict.

The agency will also strengthen its tracking of population movements through a network of nearly 80 partners on the ground, and increase its presence in areas of displacement, including Mogadishu, central Somalia and areas bordering Kenya and Ethiopia.

"The people of Somalia both those facing risk, vulnerability or displaced inside the country and the thousands who are outside as refugees have never needed protection and humanitarian assistance with the urgency that we have today," said George Okoth-Obbo, director of UNHCR's Africa Bureau.

He added, "It is imperative that UNHCR is enabled to enhance its humanitarian activities to provide protection and other life-saving assistance to those being placed at risk. If we can thereby also contribute to people not being forced to have to seek safety elsewhere internally or in other countries, that can only be a good thing."

To date, UNHCR has received US$59 million in donor contributions and pledges for this emergency operation. With today's revised appeal, the emergency operation faces a shortfall of nearly $86 million, which it needs before the end of the year.

So far this year, UNHCR has distributed emergency assistance packages to more than 100,000 people in south-central Somalia, where the drought is most severe. More supplies are currently being distributed to an additional 114,000 drought-affected people.

"All in all, UNHCR aims to reach 400,000 people in dire need of assistance inside Somalia by the end of August," said Bruno Geddo, UNHCR's representative for Somalia. "This will alleviate the suffering of some of the most vulnerable people, who do not have the means to travel to get assistance."

Since January, a combination of drought and insecurity in Somalia has driven more than 96,000 Somalis into Kenya, over 74,000 into Ethiopia and some 2,500 into Djibouti countries that are themselves suffering from the worst drought to hit the region in 60 years.

The influx has overwhelmed the already overcrowded Dadaab refugee complex in Kenya. This week, UNHCR started moving hundreds of the recent arrivals from Dadaab's outskirts to a new site called Ifo extension, where basic shelter, water, sanitation and health services are being provided.

While UNHCR's airlifts have brought thousands of tents to Dadaab, they are not enough to meet the needs of the refugee population, which is growing by 1,300 people a day. Water supply is also of concern. Some boreholes are being pumped 18 hours a day and Dadaab's water resources may soon reach peak capacity.

In Ethiopia's Dollo Ado area, new arrivals from Somalia number several hundred a day. Kobe camp, which was opened in June, is now full with some 25,000 refugees. Malnutrition remains a challenge. UNHCR and its partners have started providing therapeutic feeding for all children aged under five years, who receive servings of nutrient-packed porridge twice a day.

The agency is also providing two hot meals a day to more than 13,000 Somali refugees at the transit centre. Kobe camp is served by six clinics, some of them open 24 hours a day. Parents are told that they can get help for their children at any time. A new camp in Dollo Ado is expected to be ready in one week to accommodate the new arrivals.

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Crisis in Horn of Africa

UNHCR country pages

Bonga Camp, Ethiopia

Bonga camp is located in the troubled Gambella region of western Ethiopia. But it remains untouched by the ethnic conflicts that have torn nearby Gambella town and Fugnido camp in the last year.

For Bonga's 17,000 Sudanese refugees, life goes on despite rumblings in the region. Refugee children continue with school and play while their parents make ends meet by supplementing UNHCR assistance with self-reliance projects.

Cultural life is not forgotten, with tribal ceremonies by the Uduk majority. Other ethnic communities – Shuluks, Nubas and Equatorians – are welcome too, judging by how well hundreds of newcomers have settled in after their transfer from Fugnido camp in late 2002.

Bonga Camp, Ethiopia

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

Somalia/Ethiopia

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.

Somalia/Ethiopia

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Ethiopia: Far From Home

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