UNHCR scaling up operations inside Somalia

Briefing Notes, 9 September 2011

This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson Fatoumata Lejeune-Kaba to whom quoted text may be attributed at the press briefing, on 9 September 2011, at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

Amid assessments of a somewhat improved security situation in some parts of Somalia, UNHCR is scaling up its presence in Somalia's border regions and in Mogadishu. Yesterday, a UNHCR team undertook a mission to Liboi (Kenya) and Dobley (Lower Juba), which is the main transit point on the route to Dadaab refugee camps, in order to finalize arrangements for office and accommodation premises in Dobley.

Once security clearance is obtained, the premises will be also available to other UN agencies and international NGOs, as is already the practice in other UNHCR field offices in other parts of Somalia. This is in line with similar arrangements in Dollow (Gedo region) and Mogadishu, where UNHCR is also securing premises. Presently, we have national staff in Dollow and Dobley and international and national staff in the capital Mogadishu.

The mission to Dobley, some 20 kilometers from the Somali-Kenyan border, was led by the new UNHCR Somalia Emergency Coordinator for Gedo and the Juba regions. Our team met with the local authorities, who outlined the priority needs -- namely food, water and medical assistance. They also identified three groups in particular need of aid: internally displaced people (IDPs) from southern Somalia (Mogadishu, Kismayo, Bay and Bakool regions), farmers displaced from areas around Dobley, and vulnerable families among Dobley's 3,500 households.

Several aid agencies are providing assistance in Dobley, distributing cooked food, dry rations, cash-vouchers and providing limited medical support. However, the needs are great and humanitarian response needs to scale up. UNHCR will assist in the coordination of humanitarian activities in the coming weeks as other UN agency staff arrive in the town.

UNHCR's partners in tracking the movements of population inside Somalia report that up to 65 families make the journey from Dobley to Liboi each day en route to Dadaab. Many also use alternate routes through Diif and Degelema on the Somali side and Dhadag Bulla in Kenya. Significant numbers of IDPs in both locations on the Somali side of the border are in need of assistance.

Our mission met with local and international agencies and NGOs in Dobley who confirmed that over the past weeks, more than 1,200 people were crossing into Kenya daily. The most recent arrivals to Dobley, primarily from towns in Lower and Middle Juba, expressed the desire to return to their places of origin, provided they could receive some assistance. Many local families are hosting the new arrivals -- in some instances there are six or seven families in one household. The limited resources of these host families are now overstretched, further underlining the need for a swift and massive humanitarian response in the border areas.

Meanwhile, dozens of new Somali arrivals were visible in the Kenyan border town of Liboi, where they awaited transport to Dadaab refugee camps some 80 kilometres away.

We estimate that more than 917,000 Somalis now live as refugees in the four neighbouring countries: Kenya, Ethiopia, Djibouti and Yemen. Approximately one in every three was forced to flee this year. Altogether, more than 1.4 million Somalis are displaced within the country. This now makes a third of Somalia's estimated 7.5 million people displaced.

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




UNHCR country pages


Almost half the people of concern to UNHCR are children. They need special care.

Refworld – Children

Refworld – Children

This Special Feature on Child Protection is a comprehensive source of relevant legal and policy documents, practical tools and links to related websites.

The Children of Harmanli Face a Bleak Winter

Since the Syrian crisis began in March 2011, more than 2 million people have fled the violence. Many have made their way to European Union countries, finding sanctuary in places like Germany and Sweden. Others are venturing into Europe by way of Bulgaria, where the authorities struggle to accommodate and care for some 8,000 asylum-seekers, many of whom are Syrian. More than 1,000 of these desperate people, including 300 children, languish in an overcrowded camp in the town of Harmanli, 50 kilometres from the Turkish-Bulgarian border. These people crossed the border in the hope of starting a new life in Europe. Some have travelled in family groups; many have come alone with dreams of reuniting in Europe with loved ones; and still others are unaccompanied children. The sheer number of people in Harmanli is taxing the ability of officials to process them, let alone shelter and feed them. This photo essay explores the daily challenges of life in Harmanli.

The Children of Harmanli Face a Bleak Winter

Erbil's Children: Syrian Refugees in Urban Iraq

Some of the most vulnerable Syrian refugees are children who have sought shelter in urban areas with their families. Unlike those in camps, refugees living in towns and cities in countries like Iraq, Turkey and Jordan often find it difficult to gain access to aid and protection. In a refugee camp, it is easier for humanitarian aid organizations such as UNHCR to provide shelter and regular assistance, including food, health care and education. Finding refugees in urban areas, let alone helping them, is no easy task.

In Iraq, about 100,000 of the 143,000 Syrian refugees are believed to be living in urban areas - some 40 per cent of them are children aged under 18 years. The following photographs, taken in the northern city of Erbil by Brian Sokol, give a glimpse into the lives of some of these young urban refugees. They show the harshness of daily life as well as the resilience, adaptability and spirit of young people whose lives have been overturned in the past two years.

Life is difficult in Erbil, capital of the Kurdistan Region of Iraq. The cost of living is high and it is difficult to find work. The refugees must also spend a large part of their limited resources on rent. UNHCR and its partners, including the Kurdish Regional Government, struggle to help the needy.

Erbil's Children: Syrian Refugees in Urban Iraq

Afghan Street Children Turn from Beggars to Beauticians

A UNHCR-funded project in Kabul, Afghanistan, is helping to keep returnee children off the streets by teaching them to read and write, give them room to play and offer vocational training in useful skills such as tailoring, flower making, and hairstyling.

Every day, Afghan children ply the streets of Kabul selling anything from newspapers to chewing gum, phone cards and plastic bags. Some station themselves at busy junctions and weave through traffic waving a can of smoking coal to ward off the evil eye. Others simply beg from passing strangers.

There are an estimated 50,000 to 60,000 street children in the Afghan capital alone. Among them are those who could not afford an education as refugees in Iran or Pakistan, and are unable to go to school as returnees in Afghanistan because they have to work from dawn to dusk to support their families. For the past seven years, a UNHCR-funded project has been working to bring change.

Posted on 12 November 2008

Afghan Street Children Turn from Beggars to Beauticians

Austria: An Overwhelming WelcomePlay video

Austria: An Overwhelming Welcome

They came with water. They came with food. Some rifled through their wardrobe to find something to give. Others remembered the children … and what they might need. Young and old decended on Vienna's busiest train station with a common goal: to help thousands of refugees arriving from Hungary.
Italy: Maya's Song Play video

Italy: Maya's Song

Nawaf, his wife and children are used to the sea, they lived by it and Nawaf was a fisherman back in Syria. They never imagined they would be boarding a boat that was a one way passage out of Syria. Nawaf was on the run after brief time in detention were he was tortured. By the time he release, he was blind in one eye. Now safely in Europe the family is looking forward to restarting their life in Germany, to having their 6-year old daughter go to school for the first time.

Italy: Fashion Designer in MilanPlay video

Italy: Fashion Designer in Milan

Single mother Lamia had her own fashion workshop in Syria, she comes from a comfortable background but lost all her money in the war. Under the sound of gunfire she closed the workshop, took her two children and headed to Sudan in a lorry with dozens other people. She is now seeking asylum in Italy's fashion capital, Milan.