Fourth camp for Somalis opened in Ethiopia, arrivals to Dadaab increasing

Briefing Notes, 5 August 2011

This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson Andrej Mahečić to whom quoted text may be attributed at the press briefing, on 5 August 2011, at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

Note to reporters and editors:

As part of today's press briefing at the Palais des Nations in Geneva, the UNHCR Representative for Somalia, Mr. Bruno Geddo, spoke over the phone to accredited journalists. Below is the summary of what he said:

UNHCR's Somalia Representative, Bruno Geddo, has just returned from Dollow in Somalia, the major transit point on a corridor used by uprooted Somalis to reach Ethiopia's Dollo Ado refugee camp just across the border.

The normal population of Dollow town is approximately 30,000. While there, Geddo witnessed a constant flow of uprooted Somalis through the town which he estimated at more than 2,000 people at any given time. They are coming from the towns of Garbaharey, Bardere and El Wak (Gedo Region), as well as towns in Bay and Bakool regions. In general, those south of Baidoa (Bay Region) are heading to Mogadishu in search of assistance, while those closer to Luq (Gedo Region) are heading for Dollow.

Geddo spoke with a number of the displaced in Dollow to get a clearer picture of the reasons for displacement and an explanation as to why there had been a noticeable drop in numbers arriving in Dollo Ado camp in recent weeks from some 2,000 daily a month ago to about 250 now.

He was told that initially people had been advised by Al-Shabaab that humanitarian assistance was coming, so they stayed where they were in anticipation of its arrival. But by the end of July, the situation had not changed significantly and people decided to seek assistance elsewhere. Some also started moving toward Baidoa and Mogadishu instead of toward Ethiopia as news filtered through of large-scale assistance being provided those two cities.

News also filtered back to Somalia from people who had reached Ethiopia's Dollo Ado camps that the assistance given there was not what they expected primarily the types of foodstuffs and the delays encountered.

The internally displaced people (IDPs) also reported that roadblocks had been erected in a bid to prevent large groups of people leaving together.

Geddo said many people have either just set out or are still en route as the decision to move is a difficult one. Despite the drought, some opt to stay behind to keep working on their farms and crops, while others are awaiting remittances from relatives abroad before undertaking the journey.

As a result of the influx into Dollow over the past three months, a spontaneous site for IDPs has sprung up on the banks of the Juba River, in an area known as Kasale. IDPs there live in makeshift shelters and survive on donations of food from locals. As the current influx has been coming for over three months now, the ability of the locals to support the IDPs is severely stretched.

At Kasale, Geddo met a 60-year-old woman who had trekked for 45 days from Bardere with her daughter and three grandchildren in search of food. She said that while there is food available in Bardere, the prices are so high that they are beyond the reach of most people. She also feared fighting in the town.

Geddo was shown a nearby cemetery with dozens of graves of people who had died in the past three months from malnutrition and from drinking unclean water.

Most of those interviewed told Geddo they wanted to remain in Somalia, where they could find menial work and felt more at home. The majority of the IDPs from Bay and Bakook are farmers and want to stay close to their land so they can return quickly when the rains come in October.

A local organisation is constructing a 'transit centre' of sorts a 200m by 200m fenced-off area with latrines and water points in an area known as Kabasa, 3 kilometres from Dollow town. This facility lies on a much larger plot of land made available by the local administration and could be expanded if necessary. Geddo said UNHCR will distribute emergency assistance packages (EAPs) in Kabasa and plans to establish an office there in the coming weeks with the arrival of emergency field staff.


Briefing by Andrej Mahečić

In Ethiopia, UNHCR, in partnership with the Government of Ethiopia and IOM, this morning began the relocation of nearly 15,000 Somali refugees who have been living in a crowded transit centre in Dollo Ado. The refugees will be taken to the new Hilaweyn camp, the fourth in the Dollo Ado area. IOM expects to relocate 1,000 refugees daily to the new camp in an exercise we hope to complete within a fortnight.

Our health partner, MSF, expects to medically screen the refugees on departure from the transit centre to ensure appropriate care and attention for the sick. There is an outbreak of suspected measles in the Dollo Ado camps, with several suspected cases in the transit centre as well as in other camps in the area. On Thursday, Community Health workers in Kobe camp reported 25 deaths in the camp of 25,000 people. Half of these deaths are suspected to be from measles. The current priority is to strengthen surveillance to detect new cases and refer them to the health facilities. A measles vaccination for all children under 15 is also planned.

The preparations to open the new Hilaweyn camp includes trucking in potable water by Oxfam (UK) for up to 10,000 people and the establishment of a water treatment plant near the camp. MSF-Holland is continuing preparations for a health clinic. UNHCR has already put up more than 550 tents for up to 2,500 people. Up to 200 family tents a day must be erected to keep up with the transfers from the transit centre.

On Sunday, UNHCR and the government are expected to lead week-long UN/NGO assessment mission to Morodile, a border locality in the Gode area of south-eastern Ethiopia where some 2,000 Somalis have crossed into Ethiopia over the last several weeks. Morodile is some 150 kilometres from the town of Gode, south-east of the Addis Ababa. The newly-arrived Somalis are said to be mainly from the Wajid and Hudur districts in the Bay and Bakool regions of Somalia. According to the NGO, Merlin, which works in the area and has provided assistance to some of the Somalis, the overall situation there is desperate. There is an urgent need for humanitarian aid, particularly since local Ethiopians themselves hit by the drought have been sharing their meagre supplies. The assessment team will determine the needs of both locals and the Somalis, as well as possible solutions for this relatively isolated group.

In Kenya, the number of daily arrivals of Somali refugees in the three Dadaab camps has increased to an average of almost 1,500 in the first four days of August up from 1,300 a day in July.

Some 116,000 Somali refugees have arrived in Dadaab so far this year. About 76,000 of them arrived in Dadaab in the last two months alone. On arrival at the reception centres established in each of the camps, all new refugees receive a 21-day food ration from WFP, plastic sheets, cooking utensils, jerry cans, blankets, sleeping mats and soap.

Since 6 June, more than 41,000 refugees have been registered by the Kenyan Government's Department of Refugee Affairs (DRA) and issued with ration cards.

Refugees who have settled in the outskirts of one of the camps, in areas unsuitable for habitation, are currently being moved to a new site, Ifo Extension. In the last 11 days, more than 12,000 refugees have been relocated to the Ifo Extension tented site. By the end of November, UNHCR plans to move 180,000 refugees to Ifo Extension and another site which is now being prepared.

Meanwhile, UNHCR's humanitarian airlift to Somalia a first in more than five years is scheduled to begin early next week. The first of three planned flights is scheduled to land at Mogadishu international airport on Monday, 08 August. The UNHCR-chartered Ilyushin IL-62 will bring more than 31 metric tons of shelter material and other aid items from our emergency stockpile in Dubai for displaced Somalis living in the capital. We estimate that some 100,000 Somalis, driven by drought and famine, have reached Mogadishu area over the past two months alone in search of food, water, shelter and other assistance.

On the funding front, we have been encouraged by the initial response of governments and private donors to our emergency appeal. Nonetheless, we still face a critical shortage of funds for our emergency operations in Somalia, Kenya, Ethiopia and Djibouti. Unless new funds are swiftly committed, this shortfall will impact vital humanitarian assistance for tens of thousands of Somali refugees and internally displaced people.

UNHCR has appealed for over US$144 million to provide protection and emergency needs for the refugee crisis in the Horn of Africa until the end of the year. To date, we have either received or have firm projections for some USD$ 65 million. This amount covers less than 45 per cent of identified needs. We are calling on donor countries, private sector and individuals to urgently come forward and contribute towards closing the existing funding gap.

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 this topic, please contact:

  • In Geneva: Andrej Mahečić on mobile: +41 79 200 76 17

  • 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 71 545 5992

  • 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

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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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