New challenges in Somalia, relief efforts under pressure in Kenya and Ethiopia

Briefing Notes, 29 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 29 November 2011, at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

We are concerned about Al Shabaab's announcement yesterday, permanently revoking work permissions to a number of UN organizations including UNHCR in parts of Somalia under their control.

This comes at the time of a dire humanitarian crisis in southern and central parts of Somalia. After drought and famine, continued fighting and heavy rains further aggravate already dramatic condition of displaced Somali civilians. More than two thirds of Somalia's estimated 1.46 million internally displaced people live in southern and central parts of the country and humanitarian needs there are immense.

We are assessing the impact of this latest development on our humanitarian operations in these parts of Somalia.

Continuing military operations and heavy rains are limiting the movements of displaced population in Somalia's Gedo region bordering Kenya. There have been no cross-border movements between Dobley in Somalia and Liboi in Kenya or vice-versa. People are unable to move as the rains make roads impassable. Others are reluctant to move, fearing ambushes or getting caught in the crossfire while on the move.

However, there are reports of over 500 people, including children, travelling on foot from Qooqaani, Tabta (both in Gedo region) and Afmadow (Lower Juba) towards the border town of Dobley. They cite a lack of food in their towns, cut off by the recent rains and military activity. Some people who have already arrived in Dobley told our staff that they were forced to leave their homes due to lack of food. Even those with means were unable to buy food. They indicated that they are willing to return as soon as the situation improves and are not planning to cross the border in order to reach Dadaab. A number of agencies are operational in Dobley, undertaking distributions of food and other assistance.

In Mogadishu, we noted a profound change in the root causes driving the forced displacement. While drought accounted for the vast majority of displacement in the Somali capital during the first three quarters of this year, as of October we have seen 8,300 people displaced by conflict in the capital and just 500 displaced as a result of the drought.

Overall, our partners and staff are reporting that the movements into Mogadishu from other regions have declined compared to previous months, mainly due to fighting in Daynile and Heliwa districts. Reported displacements were mostly within Mogadishu districts and also from Daynile to Hodan district.

In neighbouring Kenya's Dadaab refugee camps, insecurity continues to hamper UNHCR's operations. It has been several weeks since the authorities stopped registering new arrivals. Aid agencies cannot assess the number and condition of new arrivals as our movements are still limited in the camps.

More than 360 refugees have been affected by cholera and acute watery diarrhoea. Most are treated as outpatient cases and there is a need for more supplies of oral rehydration salts and other treatments. At the Kambioos site, the mortality rate has decreased and it is expected that the situation will further stabilize following food distributions over the weekend.

Despite security restrictions, the authorities managed to complete a mass oral polio vaccination campaign for all refugee children under five years of age.

Efforts are ongoing to enhance security measures in Dadaab, including the deployment of additional policemen. Refugees from Hagadera camp are conducting road patrols to help secure access to the camps.

In Ethiopia's Dollo Ado camps, we're seeing high rates of severe acute malnutrition (8 per cent) and global acute malnutrition (14 per cent) among refugee children under five at the transit centre. This is partly due to the low uptake of the wet feeding program. In response, UNHCR and partners are expanding the program to all children up to the age of 10, and adding milk powder to the porridge to boost nutrient levels.

The fifth camp in that area, Bur Amino, is ready to receive the first batch of more than 7,000 refugees from the transit centre as of tomorrow (Wednesday 30 November). The transfers from the Dollo Ado transit centre will start initially with 500 people and will increase gradually until all the refugees are moved to the new site.

Meanwhile, access to these areas is increasingly difficult due to heavy rains. The roads are intermittently impassable and the local airstrip is often flooded preventing flights from landing. This is seriously affecting our supplies and operations as we run low on fuel, electricity and safe drinking water.

For more information on this topic, please contact:

  • In Nairobi, Kenya (Kenya office): Emmanuel Nyabera on mobile +254 733 995 975
  • In Nairobi, Kenya (Regional office): Vivian Tan on mobile +254 735 337 608,
  • Needa Jehu-Hoyah on mobile +254 734 564 018
  • In Nairobi, Kenya (Somalia office): Andy Needham on mobile +254 733 120 931
  • In Ethiopia: Kisut Gebre Egziabher on mobile +251 911 208 901
  • In Geneva: Andrej Mahecic on mobile: +41 79 200 76 17
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UNHCR country pages

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

The Gulf of Aden: Sharp Rise in Crossings and Deaths

The number of people arriving on the coast of Yemen after being smuggled across the treacherous Gulf of Aden from the Horn of Africa has more than doubled this year. So far this year, more than 18,000 people have arrived in Yemen across the Gulf of Aden, and nearly 400 have died attempting the journey.

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.

Posted on 20 May 2008

The Gulf of Aden: Sharp Rise in Crossings and Deaths

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