Escalating violence displaces thousands of Somalis

Briefing Notes, 2 February 2010

This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson Andrej Mahecic to whom quoted text may be attributed at the press briefing, on 2 February 2010, at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

Violence in Somalia sharply escalated in January resulting in hundreds of civilian deaths and widespread destruction. According to local sources, intense clashes between government forces and militia groups fighting for control of the conflict-torn central regions have left at least 258 civilians dead and another 253 wounded, which makes January the deadliest month since last August. We estimate that more than 80,000 Somalis have been displaced since the beginning of the year.

During January, some 29,000 people have been uprooted by heavy fighting in Dhusamareebb in Galgaduud region, over 25,000 have fled their homes to escape renewed clashes in Beled Weyne in Hiraan region, while another 18,000 are known to have been displaced in the on-going conflict in the capital, Mogadishu. Thousands were also forced to leave their homes in other parts of Somalia.

The internally displaced people (IDPs) in Galgaduud region face difficult conditions. Fearful of returning to their homes, many are reported to be sleeping in the open with dwindling shelter and little water. There are also growing concerns about the health conditions of particularly vulnerable groups such as children, women and elderly.

So far, the deteriorating security conditions have made it hard, if not impossible, for humanitarian workers to access the needy population. UNHCR plans to distribute emergency relief items and shelter material to over 18,000 people in 27 locations where the displaced are temporarily settled around Dhusamareebb and Belet-Weyn as soon as the security situation will permit.

More than 1.4 million people are internally displaced in Somalia and some 560,000 Somalis live as refugees in the neighbouring countries. In 2009, over 120,000 Somalis sought refuge mainly in Kenya, Yemen and Ethiopia