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Camps in east Ethiopia struggle to cope with influx of Somali refugees

News Stories, 4 August 2011

© UNHCR/L.Padoan
Somali refugees wait in line for hot food at a camp in Dollo Ado.

DOLLO ADO, Ethiopia, August 4 (UNHCR) Deep in the Ogaden desert one of the most remote regions in Africa a sprawling city of tents is emerging. More than 118,000 Somali refugees reside in the three camps run by UNHCR and the government in eastern Ethiopia's Dollo Ado district.

But the camps are struggling to cope with the continuing influx and the UN refugee agency is urgently constructing a fourth camp at Heloweyn to provide shelter for up to 40,000 people. Together with its partners, Médecins Sans Frontières and Save the Children, UNHCR will soon begin to transfer around 15,000 refugees to Heloweyn, some of whom have been waiting for up to one month in the transit centre at Dollo Ado.

About 1,000 kilometres from the capital, Addis Ababa, Dollo Ado lies close to the borders with troubled Somalia and Kenya, where some 400,000 Somalis have sought shelter in the crowded camps of Dadaab.

The refugees in Dollo Ado are being sheltered in three camps Kobe, Malkadida and Bokolmanyo. Each was designed to accommodate 20,000 people, but the total in each camp is now almost double that.

The new arrivals, almost all of them women and children, are only too willing to tell of the appalling conditions that compelled them to flee and seek safety and succour far from their homes. Years of war have long forced people to flee Somalia, but this year a deadly drought has multiplied the exodus rate.

Barey, a heavily pregnant 31-year-old from the Bay region of southern Somalia, arrived here earlier this week with her five children. They arrived by truck, but did not have enough to pay for Barey's husband and he stayed behind to care for his blind father.

"For the past three years there has been no rain and our harvest has failed again," she explained. "In my village I owned 15 cattle and 100 goats. They all died because there was nothing for them to eat [or drink]."

Person after person staggering into Dollo Ado, many of them after walking for weeks, has a similar story of loss and suffering to tell. Without their livestock and water sources, rural folk from Somalia simply can't survive.

Conditions around Dollo Aldo give an idea of what the Somalis have had to cope with. Vegetation is sparse and sand blasts through the arid terrain. In these conditions, UNHCR teams are delivering shelter, food, water and health services to the displaced. Further aid is on its way, including tents, medical supplies and equipment to drill water wells.

Meanwhile, UNHCR is concerned about fresh violence between government forces and the opposition Al-Shabaab militia, which is also triggering flight in south and central Somalia.

The continuing insecurity makes the journey out of the country more perilous. Forced to move at night through bush areas, some refugees are travelling hundreds of extra kilometres in order to escape notice. Men and teenage boys are at risk of recruitment.

For now, Barey is relieved to have reached safety: "I came to Ethiopia hoping for a better life for my children. But if the rains come and peace returns to Somalia, I want to go back to my country."

By Laura Padoan in Dollo Ado, Ethiopia




Crisis in Horn of Africa

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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