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UNHCR races to assist Somali exodus amid protection concerns in Mogadishu

Briefing notes

UNHCR races to assist Somali exodus amid protection concerns in Mogadishu

29 July 2011

In Mogadishu, UNHCR is concerned about the protection of civilians in the Somali capital amid renewed fighting between pro- and anti-government forces yesterday (Thursday). An offensive by pro-government forces in and around Bakara and Balcad markets, the two largest markets in Mogadishu's commercial heart, has increased the risk for the capital's citizens as well as the estimated 100,000 internally displaced people who have fled drought and famine in neighbouring regions in recent months.

UNHCR staff in Mogadishu were confined to their compound as a result of the outbreak of fighting in Wardhiglleey district mid-morning. Many inhabitants had already fled the area in recent months due to previous heavy fighting.

UNHCR has carried out a protection assessment in one of the largest IDP settlements in Mogadishu, Badbado, 9 kms from the city centre. In conjunction with other agencies, we will carry out an assessment in a further 10 settlements in the coming days.

Meanwhile, the number of Somalis who have fled their homeland this year to escape the mix of conflict, drought and recent famine has now surpassed 75,000 in the Dollo Ado camps in Ethiopia and 114,000 in Kenya's Dadaab camp complex, including those yet to be registered. The influx continues at the rate of 240 a day in Dollo Ado and 1,300 daily in Dadaab. An upsurge in new arrivals is expected due to the renewed fighting in Mogadishu.

In Ethiopia's Dollo Ado area, new refugees continue to arrive weak and emaciated from hunger and the long trek from their villages, mainly in the Bay, Bakool and Gedo regions of southern Somalia. Southern Bakool is one of the regions in Somalia that has been declared in famine. One in three children arriving in Dollo Ado from Somalia is malnourished.

UNHCR and partners continue urgent work to complete the development of Hilaweyn, the fourth refugee camp in the Dollo Ado area. It will shelter some 14,000 refugees waiting to be transferred from the overcrowded transit centre in Dollo Ado. The establishment of water and sanitation infrastructure in the new camp has been one of the main pre-conditions for its opening. Oxfam (UK), which has been tasked to develop water and sanitation in Hilaweyn camp, expects to have water supply for up to 3,000 people by August 1 and a further provision for up to 10,000 people by the end of next week. In addition, temporary latrines are being dug to allow for the start of refugee transfers to the camp. Other partners are working to set up primary health facilities and nutrition programmes.

Malnutrition remains a major concern in Dollo Ado. There is a 30 per cent severe acute malnutrition rate in new arrivals. Due to the severity of the situation inside Somalia, malnutrition is affecting a large number of children in the 5- to 18-year-old age group, and not just the under-fives who are typically the most severely affected. Eighty per cent of new arrivals are under the age of 18, necessitating screening of all of these children so that they can enter feeding programmes as required.

UNHCR and its partners have mounted an aggressive emergency response throughout the camps and is now identifying those in need of immediate nutritional and medical help. The camp population itself is also being monitored in a door-to-door screening of malnourished children, who are then referred to nutrition programmes. Screening by MSF-Spain at the reception and transit centre is also continuing. A supplementary feeding programme managed by Save the Children (USA) at the transit centre is currently providing twice-daily servings of high nutrient porridge to more than 1,500 children. These efforts are to be complemented with hygiene promotion and public education to ensure that refugee families are aware of the existing health services and that they seek timely medical attention.

Increasingly, recent arrivals are reporting that they finally made the decision to flee when the last of their animals died and they had no further source of income or food. We are now noticing an increase in the number of new arrivals.

In Kenya's Dadaab refugee complex, work continues on the relocation of refugees who had settled spontaneously on the edge of Ifo camp. They are being moved to the new Ifo Extension site, which will provide tented accommodation to 90,000 refugees by the end of November. Latrines and water reservoirs have been constructed and are already in use by the 734 families (3,207 people) that have moved to this site.

The sites, previously known as Ifo 2 and Ifo 3, have been consolidated to form the new Ifo Extension. Infrastructure near completion includes a health clinic, three schools and four boreholes that will service the whole site. Over 100 houses that are almost ready will be given to extremely vulnerable refugee families.

Oxfam has installed three water storage tanks with a capacity of 10,000 litres each in Ifo Extension. MSF-Spain is providing primary health care services from its health post located on the outskirts of Ifo camp. It is also planning to construct three additional health posts inside Ifo Extension.

Work has also started in another site, near the Hagadera camp, known as Kambioos, where the land is being cleared. Plots are being demarcated and tents will be erected to accommodate 90,000 people. By the end of November, 180,000 people will have been moved to both the Ifo Extension and Kambioos sites.

While UNHCR's airlifts have brought thousands of tents to Dadaab, they are not enough to meet the needs of the refugee growing population. Some 45,000 tents are needed to provide emergency accommodation. Since the beginning of the year, some 114,000 Somalis have arrived in Dadaab, including about 30,000 awaiting registration on the outskirts of the refugee camps.

Learn more about the crisis in Somalia and how to contribute by visiting the UNHCR Horn of Africa emergency site. For the latest updates follow us on Facebook or Twitter.

For further information on this topic, please contact:

  • In Geneva: Fatoumata Lejeune-Kaba on mobile: +41 79 249 3483

  • In Geneva: Vivian Tan on mobile +41 79 881 91 74

  • In Nairobi UNHCR regional office: Ron Redmond on mobile +254 734 564 019

  • In Nairobi UNHCR regional office: Needa Jehu-Hoyah on mobile +254 734 564 018

  • In Nairobi UNHCR Kenya office: Emmanuel Nyabera on mobile: +254 773 995 975

  • In Dadaab camp, Kenya: William Spindler on mobile +254 71 545 5992

  • In Kenya, UNHCR Somalia Office: Andy Needham on mobile +254 733 120 931

  • In Ethiopia: Milicent Mutuli on mobile +251 911 207 906

  • In Ethiopia: Kisut Gebre Egziabher on mobile +251 911 208 901