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
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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.

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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.

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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.

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