Refugee camps in the Horn of Africa at risk

Briefing Notes, 13 January 2012

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 13 January 2012, at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

UNHCR is increasingly concerned about insecurity in and around camps hosting hundreds of thousands of Somali refugees in the Horn of Africa.

The situation is particularly worrying, complex and tenuous in the Dadaab refugee camps in northern Kenya where the threat of improvised explosive devices, kidnappings, vehicle hijackings and banditry remains high. In addition to killings of police officers and kidnappings of aid workers, we are also seeing targeting of refugees. Two refugee leaders who had volunteered to help maintain peace and safety in the camps were murdered at the turn of the year. Both were involved in the work of Community Peace and Safety Teams (CPST) in Dadaab's Hagadera and Ifo camps respectively. The Kenyan authorities are investigating these killings along with other threats and abuses against refugees.

These events and others, since late October, are harming life for the 460,000 people who make up the population of the largest refugee settlement in the world. The ability of aid agencies to deliver services is being seriously curbed. Humanitarian workers are having to contend with restrictions on movement from Dadaab town to the camps, and police escorts for such movements have become essential.

Despite these challenges basic services such as health, food, water, sanitation, education and protection are being maintained thanks to planning and the close cooperation of partners and the refugee communities in Dadaab. Together with our partners we are also looking at the alternative ways of delivering services, including larger involvement from the host community, strengthening the involvement and responsibilities of incentive refugee workers, as well as enhancing communications with the refugee community.

Meanwhile in Ethiopia, a security incident occurred near the Dollo Ado camps on Wednesday morning. Three armed men in civilian clothing attempted to stop a vehicle belonging to an international NGO on the main access road between Dollo Ado town and Bur Amino camp, the fifth and newest refugee camp there. The vehicle, with four people on board, did not stop and the men opened fire. Fortunately no one was hurt.

This is the first such incident in the Dollo Ado area, which has been relatively calm throughout the massive displacement crisis. Although this was an isolated incident, aid agencies have restricted all but essential activities and movements in all five Dollo Ado camps, which today host some 140,000 people. These are temporary measures while the Ethiopian authorities conduct their investigation and additional steps are taken to increase security for humanitarian staff. Our teams continue to operate in the camps furthest from the border, as well as at the reception and transit centres, where newly arrived refugees from Somalia are registered and given protection and assistance.

More than 955,000 Somalis live as refugees in countries neighbouring Somalia primarily in Kenya (520,000), Yemen (203,000) and Ethiopia (186,000). A third of them fled Somalia in the course of 2011. Another 1.3 million people are internally displaced within Somalia.

For further information on this topic, please contact:

  • In Nairobi UNHCR Kenya office: Emmanuel Nyabera on mobile +254 733 995 975
  • In Dadaab, Kenya: Alex Donato on mobile +254 706 046 732 and Bettina Schulte on mobile +254 720 095 990
  • In Geneva: Andrej Mahecic on mobile +41 79 200 7617
• DONATE NOW •

 

• GET INVOLVED • • STAY INFORMED •

UNHCR country pages

Internally Displaced People

The internally displaced seek safety in other parts of their country, where they need help.

Related Internet Links

UNHCR is not responsible for the content and availability of external internet sites

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

Kenya: A Lifetime of WaitingPlay video

Kenya: A Lifetime of Waiting

Sarah was born and raised in Hagadera refugee camp in Dadaab, Kenya. Now 21, she has become a wife and mother without ever setting foot outside the camp.
Canada: Light Years Ahead
Play video

Canada: Light Years Ahead

With help from the Government of Canada, lives of refugees in Chad and Ethiopia have been transformed through the Light Years Ahead project.
Ethiopia: South Sudanese Refugee InfluxPlay video

Ethiopia: South Sudanese Refugee Influx

Despite a ceasefire agreement signed in early May, fighting continues between government and opposition forces in South Sudan. The renewed conflict has forced thousands of refugees to seek shelter in Ethiopia.