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Somalia: Situation of displaced worsening amid reports of further fighting in capital

Briefing notes

Somalia: Situation of displaced worsening amid reports of further fighting in capital

20 April 2007 Also available in:

UNHCR yesterday (Thursday) began distribution of relief supplies to thousands of displaced people in Afgooye, a Somali town some 30 km west of Mogadishu. This comes amid reports of an outbreak of fresh fighting in Mogadishu and an explosion yesterday afternoon on the main road linking Afgooye and the capital, effectively cutting links to the small town. There is no traffic along the road this morning, forcing use of insecure alternative routes through the bush. There are concerns that with this vital road now cut off, aid agencies will have an even harder time trying to bring supplies from warehouses in Mogadishu for distribution to thousands of displaced people in Afgooye and surrounding areas.

Afgooye now has an estimated 40,000 displaced Somalis who have fled Mogadishu since the beginning of February - nearly a fifth of the 213,000 Somalis who are believed to have fled the capital. Nearly half of those who have fled have sought safety in the adjacent provinces of the Middle and Lower Shabelle. (People are reported still fleeing the capital. We are expecting some more information on that later today from our monitoring network in Somalia).

On the first day of the distribution yesterday, UNHCR and its Somali NGO partners were able to reach 1,500 families, or about 9,000 people. All of them were living outdoors under trees or simply out in the open. By this morning, many of these families had already prepared makeshift shelters with some of the plastic sheeting which they received yesterday. We plan to continue with the distribution this morning with the hope of reaching another 500 families (3,000 people), all of whom are living outdoors in Afgooye.

The approach of the rainy season makes the need for shelter material more pressing as families living under the trees are exposed to the scorching sun, heavy rains and the chilling nights. In addition to plastic sheeting, we have been able to distribute sleeping mats and mosquito nets. Distribution is expected to continue this weekend from stocks that were flown in from our emergency stockpiles in Dubai to Baidoa. They were later trucked to Afgooye. Stocks include blankets, plastic sheeting, jerry cans and kitchen sets for up to 20,000 people. UNHCR plans to airlift more relief supplies from Dubai next week, and to distribute them in Afgooye. The extra supplies should cover an additional 15,000 displaced people.

On Wednesday, we were able to send two truckloads of much-needed relief and medical supplies from Dadaab refugee camp, in north-eastern Kenya to Dobley, a small Somali border town 18 km from the Kenya / Somali border. The town is struggling to cope with a recent influx of an estimated 4,000 displaced Somalis and an outbreak of diarrhoea which has so far claimed the lives of six children. By yesterday afternoon, some of the supplies had been distributed at an isolation camp set up by the community on the outskirts of the town to stem the spread of the disease in the town. NGOs report that there are now 50 people hospitalised in the makeshift hospital.

Because of security concerns, the UN is unable to work in these parts of Somalia and is providing assistance through Somali NGOs. We are following up with our Somali partners in Doble on the distribution of other relief supplies to the displaced people in the border town.