UNHCR experts sent to remote Ethiopian area to help 18,000 Somalis

News Stories, 23 August 2011

© UNHCR/S.Modola
UNHCR and other humanitarian aid organizations have been trying to help as many displaced Somalis as possible inside and outside the country.

NAIROBI, Kenya, August 23 (UNHCR) The UN refugee agency has sent a team of experts in several disciplines to a remote area of eastern Ethiopia where some 18,000 Somali refugees are in urgent need of aid after fleeing their country.

The UNHCR team sent to Gode includes specialists in health, nutrition, protection, field coordination and registration. They have been deployed in coordination with the Ethiopian government, other agencies and non-governmental organizations (NGO) as part of a response to the influx at Gode.

"Their task is to profile and register the newly arrived refugees, identify needs and deliver aid. We will also help transport those refugees who are willing to be relocated to the existing camps in Dollo Ado," some 250 kilometres to the south of Gode, said UNHCR spokesman Adrian Edwards.

To meet the needs of the arrivals in Gode, who have fled drought, famine and conflict, UNHCR plans to airlift sufficient aid for 20,000 people to Ethiopia by the end of the week. The aid includes shelter items and household goods. Some 3,000 tents, supplied locally, are also being rushed to the area.

"A priority for us remains the need to save lives among this badly weakened population. Ensuring that new arrivals get food, water and medical attention is critically important," Edwards said. Several NGOs with field presences in the area are making limited interventions in the areas of health, nutrition and provision of water. UNHCR will provide additional support where necessary.

Edwards also said UNHCR was still concerned about the persistently high mortality rate at the Kobe camp in the Dollo Ado area. A major cause of death is suspected measles. The high prevalence of acute malnutrition, combined with poor hygiene practices, is compounding the problem.

A mass immunization campaign was conducted last week for children between the ages of six months and 15 years. It will take 10-14 days for the vaccine to be effective and thus for the mortality rates to drop. Together with the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF), UNHCR has just completed a second mass measles campaign in the Melkadida camp. Polio vaccination and screening for malnutrition were carried out at the same time for children.

In Somalia itself, distributions of emergency assistance packages have been continuing in the capital, Mogadishu, and southern parts of the country. Despite these deliveries, there are still many needs in the makeshift settlements in southern and central Somalia that accommodate many of the country's estimated 1.4 million internally displaced people. In addition to shelter, people also need food, access to clean water and medical facilities.

To meet the existing needs, a further 20,000 aid packages are to be sent by boat later this week from Dubai to Mogadishu. They will be distributed across southern Somalia. In June and July alone, UNHCR aid distributions inside Somalia have tripled, reaching more than 180,000 people.

In Kenya, meanwhile, UNHCR continues to relocate refugees from the outskirts of the three camps that comprise the Dadaab refugee complex (Ifo, Dagahaley and Hagadera). Refugees are being transported by bus to new sites. As of Monday, more than 18,000 refugees had been moved to the Ifo3 site. Relocation of refugees to the Ifo2 area, which began on August 18, is continuing. So far, 3,800 refugees have been moved to this site.

Last Friday, UNHCR also began moving refugees from the outskirts of the Hagadera camp to the Kambioos site. "As of yesterday we had moved more than 1,100 refugees to this site, which has capacity for up to 120,000 people," spokesman Edwards said. The three Dadaab camps host an estimated 440,000 refugees. On average, around 1,200 refugees arrive from Somalia every day.

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Crisis in Horn of Africa

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Public Health

The health of refugees and other displaced people is a priority for UNHCR.

Health crisis in South Sudan

There are roughly 105,000 refugees in South Sudan's Maban County. Many are at serious health risk. UNHCR and its partners are working vigorously to prevent and contain the outbreak of malaria and several water-borne diseases.

Most of the refugees, especially children and the elderly, arrived at the camps in a weakened condition. The on-going rains tend to make things worse, as puddles become incubation areas for malaria-bearing mosquitoes. Moderately malnourished children and elderly can easily become severely malnourished if they catch so much as a cold.

The problems are hardest felt in Maban County's Yusuf Batil camp, where as many as 15 per cent of the children under 5 are severely malnourished.

UNHCR and its partners are doing everything possible to prevent and combat illness. In Yusuf Batil camp, 200 community health workers go from home to home looking educating refugees about basic hygene such as hand washing and identifying ill people as they go. Such nutritional foods as Plumpy'nut are being supplied to children who need them. A hospital dedicated to the treatment of cholera has been established. Mosquito nets have been distributed throughout the camps in order to prevent malaria.

Health crisis in South Sudan

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

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