Amid improved security, UNHCR scales up operations inside Somalia
NAIROBI, Kenya, September 9 (UNHCR) - Taking advantage of an improved security situation in parts of Somalia, UNHCR is scaling up its presence in the capital and in border regions.
On Thursday, a UNHCR assessment team visited Liboi just inside Kenya and the small town of Dobley in the southern Somalia region of Lower Juba. The team went to finalize arrangements for office and accommodation premises in Dobley, which is the main transit point for Somalis trying to reach the huge refugee camps at Dadaab in northern Kenya.
The facilities will be also available to other UN agencies and international NGOs. This is in line with similar arrangements in Dollow (Gedo region) and the Somalia capital, Mogadishu, where UNHCR is also securing premises. The refugee agency currently has national staff in Dollow and Dobley and international and national staff in Mogadishu.
In Dobley, the UNHCR team met with the local authorities, who outlined the priority needs - food, water and medical assistance. They also identified three groups in particular need of aid: internally displaced people from southern Somalia (Mogadishu, Kismayo, Bay and Bakool regions), farmers displaced from areas around Dobley, and vulnerable families among Dobley's 3,500 households.
Several aid agencies are providing assistance in Dobley, distributing cooked food, dry rations and cash vouchers, and providing limited medical support. "However, the needs are great and the humanitarian response needs to scale up," UNHCR spokeswoman Fatoumata Lejeune-Kaba said. "UNHCR will assist in the coordination of humanitarian activities in the coming weeks as other UN agency staff arrive in the town," she added.
UNHCR partners inside Somalia report that up to 65 families make the journey from Dobley to Liboi each day en route to Dadaab. Many also use alternate routes through Diif and Degelema on the Somalia side and Dhadag Bulla in Kenya. Significant numbers of internally displaced people in both Somali towns are in need of assistance.
"Our mission met with local and international agencies and NGOs in Dobley, who confirmed that over the past weeks more than 1,200 people were crossing into Kenya daily," Lejeune-Kaba said.
The most recent arrivals to Dobley, primarily from towns in Somalia's Lower and Middle Juba regions, expressed the desire to return to their places of origin, provided they could receive some assistance in Dobley. Many local families are hosting the new arrivals, but their resources are overstretched, further underlining the need for a swift and massive humanitarian response in the border areas.
UNHCR estimates that almost 920,000 Somalis now live as refugees in Kenya, Ethiopia, Djibouti and Yemen. About a third of them fled Somalia this year. Altogether, more than 1.4 million Somalis are displaced within the country.