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Conflict and drought force more Somalis to flee to Kenya

Briefing notes

Conflict and drought force more Somalis to flee to Kenya

25 September 2009

More than 50,000 Somalis fled to Kenya since the beginning of the year, escaping the fighting and the growing humanitarian crisis in their country.

The refugees are arriving at an overwhelming average rate of 6,400 a month, adding more pressure on the already overstretched facilities and resources in Dadaab camps in northern Kenya, which currently host three times the population they were designed to hold.

In mid-August, we embarked on a programme aimed at decongesting Dadaab and started the relocation of some 12,900 refugees to Kakuma camp in north-west Kenya. Despite the fact that we have already moved 9,570 refugees, the camp population in Dadaab remains virtually unchanged. There are now 281,600 Somali refugees there.

The 16th convoy of 13 buses with 650 refugees on board left Dadaab on Wednesday and arrived in Kakuma today. The relocation, which is being implemented by the International Organisation for Migration (IOM), is expected to be completed by 7 October.

After a prolonged drought, several parts of Kenya are experiencing torrential rains. Meteorologists have forecasted that Kenya will be hit by the El-Nino phenomenon. We fear that Dadaab is likely to be heavily flooded in the coming weeks, posing considerable health risks to the refugees.

Meanwhile, deadly clashes between government forces and rebel groups have forced some 250,000 Somalis out of their homes in the capital Mogadishu alone since May. Most have sought refuge in the Afgooye corridor, some 30 km west of the capital. These makeshift sites are now home to over 524,000 internally displaced people (IDPs) living in squalid conditions as humanitarian organisations face enormous hurdles in reaching them.

The deteriorating security situation and prolonged drought in Somalia are forcing more people to flee further a field, into the neighbouring countries and beyond. Using unscrupulous smugglers, thousands risk their lives and take the perilous journey across the Gulf of Aden and the Red Sea to reach Yemen or the Mediterranean Sea to get to Europe.

Not all make it to their destination. Last week, 16 people died and 49 others went missing, presumed drowned in the Gulf of Aden. Since January, a total of 924 boats and over 46,700 people have made the journey to Yemen from the Horn of Africa. So far this year 322 others are known to have drowned or went missing at sea and are presumed dead.

Somalia is one of the world's biggest refugee and IDP producing countries. UNHCR provides protection and assistance to more than 515,000 Somali refugees in the nearby countries of Kenya, Yemen, Ethiopia, Djibouti and Uganda. The UN estimates that there are 3.8 million Somalis in urgent need of humanitarian assistance, including some 1.5 million IDPs.



The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) was established on 14 December 1950 by the United Nations General Assembly. The agency is mandated to lead and coordinate international action to protect refugees and resolve refugee issues. It strives to ensure that everyone has the right to seek asylum and find safe refuge in another state, with the option to voluntarily return home when conditions are conducive for return, integrate locally or resettle to a third country. UNHCR has twice won the Nobel Peace Prize, in 1954 for its ground-breaking work in helping the refugees of Europe, and in 1981 for its worldwide assistance to refugees.