Heavy rains hit thousands of displaced Somalis in region

Briefing Notes, 4 November 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 4 November 2011, at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

Thousands of displaced Somalis have been affected by heavy rains and flooding in parts of Somalia, Kenya and Ethiopia.

In Somalia's capital Mogadishu, the rains have flooded the shelters of some 2,800 people in Sigale IDP camp. In response, UNHCR has distributed 4,500 assistance kits with plastic sheets, supporting sticks, plastic buckets and soap. More distributions are planned for some of the worst-affected IDP camps.

Heavy downpours have also disrupted the transport system and slowed the pace of internal displacement in Somalia. Nonetheless, we are still seeing some movements. In the last week, more than 2,200 people have moved from Afgooye and Daynile north of Mogadishu, to areas south of the capital in Banadir district. Some say they fled due to general insecurity, while others were trying to return to their home areas in anticipation of deteriorating security.

In Kenya's Dadaab refugee complex, some 5,000 refugees in the Ifo 2 East and West camps have lost their homes to the flood waters. UNHCR and partners have moved them to dryer parts of the camps, giving them blankets and sleeping mats while working to improve drainage in the flooded areas.

The rains have also hampered road access in some parts of the camp and damaged some latrines. We are seeing a worrying rise in the number of watery diarrhea cases and a general deterioration of the health situation among refugees, with some 600 people approaching the health centres daily. As part of efforts to prevent disease outbreak, we have started awareness campaigns to encourage refugees to wash their hands, boil water and drink only safe water.

Fewer refugees are arriving in Dadaab due to the rains and growing insecurity in the Kenya-Somalia border area. Monitoring teams have found some recent arrivals living with families in the camps.

In Ethiopia's Dollo Ado area, there were more refugee arrivals last month than in the previous two months. With over 8,800 arrivals, October recorded the fourth-highest number of arrivals this year, after June, July and May. The recent arrivals mostly came in the first half of October, possibly fleeing food shortage and rising insecurity in Somalia's Gedo area. In the last two weeks, rains and flooded roads have slowed these movements.

The four camps in Dollo Ado are now full. Construction of a fifth camp, Buramino, is expected to be completed in about two weeks. In the meantime, some 6,000 recent arrivals are temporarily living at the transit centre, where they receive shelter, food, water and health care.

So far this year, some 330,000 Somalis have fled drought and insecurity and sought refuge in the neighbouring countries of Kenya, Ethiopia, Yemen and Djibouti. While the recent rains in parts of the region may bring some relief to drought-hit areas, it is unlikely to ease the famine unless farming activities can resume in an improved security climate.

For more information on this topic, please contact:

  • In Dollo Ado, Ethiopia: Stiofainin Nic Iomhaird on mobile +252 618 017 852
  • In Dadaab, Kenya: Sonia Aguilar on mobile +254 705 253 292
  • In Nairobi, Kenya (Somalia office): Andy Needham on mobile +254 733 120 931
  • (Kenya office): Emmanuel Nyabera on mobile +254 733 995 975
  • (Regional office): Vivian Tan on mobile +254 735 337 608
  • Needa Jehu-Hoyah on mobile +254 734 564 018



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


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.


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