Thousands of Somalis flee renewed clashes into Mogadishu

News Stories, 17 February 2012

© UNHCR/S.Modola
Settlements for displaced Somalis in Mogadishu could get even more crowded with new arrivals from the Afgooye corridor.

MOGADISHU, Somalia, February 17 (UNHCR) The UN refugee agency is calling for the protection of civilians as thousands of people flee escalating conflict in Somalia's Afgooye corridor.

Since renewed clashes erupted on Tuesday, more than 5,200 Somalis have fled the Afgooye corridor just north-west of the capital Mogadishu. So far this month, over 7,200 people have been displaced from the area, a 40-km stretch of stretch of road with sprawling settlements and makeshift camps hosting almost 410,000 internally displaced Somalis.

"One-third of Somalia's internally displaced population lives in the Afgooye corridor," said Bruno Geddo, UNHCR's Representative for Somalia, noting that they had fled insecurity in Mogadishu and other parts of the country over the last five years. "Many are now on the move again. We urge all armed groups and forces to prioritise the safety and protection of these vulnerable people and the residents of Afgooye."

Most of those who fled in recent days are heading towards Mogadishu. On Wednesday, UNHCR staff observed some 150 minibuses and donkey carts bringing people into the capital through one of the entry points. Others arrived on foot.

"Some of them are settling into existing settlements for displaced people in Mogadishu," said Geddo. "Others are moving towards districts that were recently vacated, or are living with family or friends."

UNHCR, together with other agencies, will be scaling up its assistance to address the immediate humanitarian needs of this new population, who are in urgent need of shelter, food and water.

More than 20 years after the civil war started, Somalia remains one of the worst humanitarian crises that UNHCR faces. It generates the largest number of refugees and displaced in the world after Afghanistan and Iraq. Some 1.3 million Somalis are internally displaced while more than 968,000 others live as refugees in countries neighbouring Somalia, primarily in Kenya (520,000), Yemen (203,000) and Ethiopia (186,000).

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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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