Somali displaced continue to move, seeking safety and assistance

Briefing Notes, 22 June 2012

This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson Adrian Edwards to whom quoted text may be attributed at the press briefing, on 22 June 2012, at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

A new UNHCR population assessment of the Afgooye corridor west of the Somali capital Mogadishu has found a significant reduction in the number of displaced people living there.

From data collated in May we estimate that up to 120,000 internally displaced people (IDPs) may still be living along this 30 kilometre-long stretch of road. At the height of the displacement crisis in 2010 this was the area with the highest density of IDP population in Somalia. Some 400,000 IDPs had sheltered there at the time.

The latest estimates, based on satellite imagery, illustrate the fluid and volatile environment for IDPs in southern and central Somalia and their constant search for safety, shelter and assistance.

IDPs still make up the vast majority of the corridor's population. Most of them fled fighting in Mogadishu between 2007 and 2010. The drought and famine also led to new displacement in 2011.

However, since the last official population assessment for the corridor in September 2010, a number of events have led to new movements from this area.

Shortly after the declaration of famine last July, many left the corridor for Mogadishu and south central Somalia. Insecurity, difficulties with access to the corridor for humanitarian agencies, and the scale-up of humanitarian assistance in the Somali capital created a pull factor. Satellite imagery analysis also confirmed an increase in IDP settlements in Mogadishu at that time.

The cessation of large-scale military activities in Mogadishu last August led to a steady movement of people from the corridor to the capital. Many appear to have moved to urban IDP settlements or to live with host families. It is expected that the next population assessment in Mogadishu will display a significant increase in IDP numbers.

In February this year, with the announcement of imminent military activities in the corridor more people fled, anticipating an escalation of violence. The majority headed to Mogadishu, while some movements were reported towards other south central areas. As a result of military activity last month, large numbers of those remaining in the corridor also moved towards Mogadishu, Afgooye town and surrounding villages.

Continuing insecurity in Somalia, multiple displacements and lack of access, make efforts to estimate the IDP population extremely challenging. With better access and stabilization of the situation, we plan to undertake an inter-agency population assessment on the ground soon to complement data on the Afgooye corridor obtained through the satellite imagery.

During May, UNHCR distributed assistance to some 100,000 IDPs in the Somali capital and we plan to distribute shelter material for 4,500 families (some 27,000 people) in Afgooye town in the coming weeks.

Meanwhile, in southern Ethiopia's Dollo Ado area, more Somali refugees continue to arrive daily. Since mid-May, more than a thousand new arrivals have been reaching the camps every week. Refugees tell our teams in Ethiopia of growing physical and food insecurity in Somalia.

New arrivals say that Al Shabaab militants are increasingly present in rural areas, carrying out forced recruitment among men, including minors. Continuing insecurity and increased taxation by militant groups are also given as reasons for leaving Somalia. Refugees say that the poor April rains and the destruction of crops by caterpillars have left them without food. Many new arrivals are coming to Ethiopia with all of their belongings, including donkey carts and livestock. They say that they do not foresee a possible return to Somalia in the near future.

For more information on this topic, please contact:

  • In Nairobi, Somalia office, Andreas Needham,on mobile: +254 733 120 931
  • In Geneva: Andrej Mahecic on mobile +41 79 200 7617



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

Somalia: UN High Commissioner For Refugees In MogadishuPlay video

Somalia: UN High Commissioner For Refugees In Mogadishu

UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres visits Mogadishu, expresses solidarity with Somali people on eve of Ramadan.
Somalia: Solutions For Somali RefugeesPlay video

Somalia: Solutions For Somali Refugees

In Kenya, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, António Guterres discusses solutions for Somali refugees.
Somalia: Saving LivesPlay video

Somalia: Saving Lives

Donor support for a specialized maternity-child clinic helps save the lives of displaced Somali mothers.