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Somalia displacement update

Briefing notes

Somalia displacement update

20 May 2009 Also available in:

Despite the lull in fighting in Mogadishu, the number of people fleeing the Somali capital in the last 12 days has now risen to 45,000. Intense fighting between government forces and the opposition Al-Shabaab and Hisb-ul-Islam groups erupted in several north-west areas of Mogadishu on 8 May.

A significant proportion of the displaced are heading towards the Afgooye corridor, south-west of Mogadishu swelling the ranks of the sprawling, makeshift camps that have sprung there in the last two years, which already host an estimated 400,000 persons.

But many others who simply could not afford to make the 30 km journey have moved to the relatively safe neighbourhoods of Dharkeynley and Deyninle in the south-west of the city.

Some of the displaced say they do not believe that they will ever return to a peaceful Mogadishu. Others who had recently returned home to start afresh after years of refuge life in the neighbouring countries are deeply disappointed. They spoke of the hurdles they had to scale to reach a safe point, navigating several roadblocks and getting stuck for days on roads made impassable by heavy rains. Many of them are joining relatives who have endured two years of hard times in IDP sites, and who lack proper shelter and have no enough to feed their own children.

The deteriorating security situation has sharply decreased humanitarian space in the conflict area, hampering the delivery of aid to the displaced. Even local agencies that have often provided a lifeline to the IDPs are encountering new risks as they try to help out the needy.

One of the most urgent needs is shelter and other non-food items, which humanitarian agencies led by UNHCR plan to provide first to over 100,000 people in the Afgooye corridor and neighbourhoods in north-west Mogadishu, and afterwards to others in other affected areas of the city as soon as the security permits.

At same time, the number of Somali refugees fleeing to the neighbouring countries of Kenya and Yemen is rising daily.

The number of refugees in the Dadaab refugee complex in north-eastern Kenya has now reached a record 272,800, the overwhelming majority of who are Somalis. This is three times the number for which Dadaab was originally designed, putting enormous pressure on camp facilities and straining its resources.

To avert a humanitarian crisis, we have repeatedly appealed to the Kenyan authorities to allocate additional land to help de-congest the camp and to donors for more funds to assist the growing number of refugees fleeing the conflict in Somalia.

UNHCR also plans to transfer 10,000 refugees to Kakuma camp in north-west Kenya to help reduce the overcrowding in Dadaab.

However, we are yet to hear from the government of Kenya on the land allocation, while on funding, UNHCR's Kenya operation is experiencing serious shortfalls, just $16.5 million out of a total original appeal of US $ 91.6 million received for the Emergency Assistance Programme for Somali Refugees in Dadaab.

Somalia is one of the world's biggest refugee producing countries. UNHCR provides protection and assistance to over 499,000 Somali refugees in nearby countries, including Kenya (292,194), Yemen (142,394), Ethiopia (40,439), Uganda (8,889) Djibouti (8,741), Eritrea (4,636) and Tanzania (1,527) and in addition to coordinating protection and shelter activities for the 1.3 million displaced in Somalia.