UNHCR sounds alert on deteriorating Somalia situation

Geneva, Wednesday 12 May 2010

Prompted by a rapidly deteriorating situation and growing displacement in Somalia UNHCR is seeking additional funds to ease the plight of Somali refugees in neighbouring Kenya, Yemen, Ethiopia and Djibouti and those forcibly displaced inside their country.

The two supplementary appeals being launched today in Geneva address the increasing needs in Somalia and four neighbouring countries as well as the extension of the Ifo camp in Dadaab, Kenya. Including an additional US$ 60 million being sought today, UNHCR's overall budgetary needs in Somalia and its four neighbouring countries in 2010 presently amount to US$ 424.7 million. So far this year, UNHCR has received 36 percent of its global comprehensive needs budget.

Escalating violence in southern and central Somalia has forced an estimated 200,000 Somalis to leave their homes this year alone. The vast majority remain displaced within the country as it is getting more dangerous and difficult to flee across the borders.

"The displacement crisis is worsening with the deterioration of the situation inside Somalia and we need to prepare fast for new and possibly large-scale displacement," said UNHCR Deputy High Commissioner Alexander Aleinikoff, who has visited Somalia, Ethiopia, Djibouti and Kenya within the past two weeks.

"We need to be ready. We have a duty of care to strengthen efforts to provide protection and to improve the living conditions of a refugee population that fled violence, indiscriminate fighting and human rights violations. We also need to be prepared for the possibility of continued instability in Somalia and the population displacement associated with that," Aleinikoff said.

In Somalia and all four neighbouring countries, UNHCR and its partners are struggling to respond fully and effectively to the protection and assistance needs of some 550,000 Somali refugees and 1.4 million internally displaced people (IDPs).

The situation is particularly dire in Dadaab, Kenya - one of the world's oldest, largest and most congested refugee sites where there are growing fears of even more arrivals soon.

The emergency assistance to Somali refugees in Ifo, one of three refugee camps in Dadaab focuses on relieving dramatic overcrowding. The three adjacent camps are already stretched to three times their initial capacity and thousands more people are continuing to arrive each month. During the first four months of this year Kenya received more than 21,000 people.

Violence and fighting in their homeland forced more than 120,000 Somalis to seek refuge in neighbouring countries during 2009. Kenya bore the brunt of the displacement. This year alone, more than 37,000 Somalis sought asylum in the region and further afield. Most Somali refugees arrived from Mogadishu and southern Somalia. The unfolding crisis is further compounded by severe drought conditions, poverty, food insecurity and periodic heavy flooding in the Horn of Africa.

The new funding is mainly needed to improve services in existing camps, in particular water supply, shelter and health facilities. UNHCR will also use these funds to open two new camps for Somali refugees - one in Yemen and another in Djibouti. Additional funds are also needed for registration and legal assistance, complementary and supplementary feeding, and provision of basic aid items - especially for the hundreds of thousands of displaced inside Somalia.