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UNHCR appeals for $24 million for Somali programme

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UNHCR appeals for $24 million for Somali programme

3 April 1998

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees today presented a US$24 million appeal for its 1998 Somalia programme.

The majority of refugees who fled the civil war in Somalia beginning in 1989 are in Ethiopia (240,000 as of 1 January, 1998) and Kenya (134,000). Smaller groups are in Djibouti, Yemen and Libya.

"The programme is in a crucial phase," said UNHCR's Regional Director Albert-Alain Peters. "Thousands of Somali refugees have decided to return home, mainly to the Northwest of the country, and we need to be able to give the same opportunity to many others."

Authorities in Hargeisa in Northwest Somalia have agreed with UNHCR on a cumulative target of 100,000 returns for 1997 and 1998. In order to give so many people the chance to restart their lives in Northwest Somalia, UNHCR will expand its reintegration programmes, which in 1997 concentrated on the Hargeisa and Boroma areas, to more potential return areas in the Northwestern region.

UNHCR's pilot repatriation operation brought back over 11,000 people to Northwest Somalia in 1997, principally from the Hartisheik camps in Ethiopia. Another 8,000 refugees have been helped to return so far this year. UNHCR expects 60,000 Somalis from Ethiopia to return to the Northwest in 1998, and another 16,500 from other countries.

"In some areas of Somalia the situation is very encouraging," Peters added. "This is why people are registering to return. We must give our full support to reintegration where people are asking for it. If we do so now, we have the chance to make their return a success."

Other parts of the country, especially in the South, are not yet suitable for return. Prospects for returns from Kenya to Southern Somalia have dimmed after the heavy rainfall and flooding there since October. Renewed fighting has been reported recently in Kismayo area. This precarious situation continues to push Somalis to head North from Southern and Central parts of the country, and to set off from the Bossasso area by boat, sometimes with tragic consequences.

In an effort to support the country's fragile peace process, UNHCR will continue its cooperation with the Intergovernmental Authority on Development and other partners.

UNHCR's reintegration programme includes aid for education, where in some regions less than 20% of primary school-aged children attend school, and boys outnumber girls two to one. Assistance also targets the estimated 35% of households headed by women, with initiatives designed to give women their own source of livelihood through a range of small businesses. Clean water will be supplied to communities and their livestock from new wells and traditional water catchments.

In countries of asylum, UNHCR will continue to assist camp populations and to provide protection to refugees who are not able to repatriate. The 1998 programme provides for the consolidation and reforestation of the refugee sites - Hartisheik was one of the world's largest camps in the early 1990s - which experience large departures.

UNHCR's funding requirements were made public as part of a consolidated inter-agency appeal for $79 million for Somalia, launched Tuesday (March 31) by the Office of the Co-ordinator for Humanitarian Affairs in Geneva.