Basic household items distributed to displaced Somalis in border town
NAIROBI, Kenya, January 25 (UNHCR) - Aid workers have distributed urgently needed basic household items to thousands of internally displaced Somalis stuck just across the border from north-east Kenya in the small town of Dobley.
The Kenya-Somalia border has been closed for weeks due to conflict in central and southern Somalia, but a truck carrying basic household items was allowed to cross the frontier on Tuesday and the goods were distributed on Wednesday.
The cargo included 1,760 sleeping mats, 810 plastic sheets and 1,000 kitchen sets - all provided by UNHCR. The UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) and British-based aid organisation, Oxfam, donated mosquito nets, blankets, jerry cans and soap.
Thousands of Somalis began lining up in Dobley on Wednesday morning for the distribution to begin. The operation, conducted by workers of the Kenyan non-governmental organisation (NGO) Wajid Social Development Alliance, began late afternoon. The NGO has been working with village communities inside Somalia.
Most of those queuing for the supplies had been displaced by the fighting in their home regions between the Ethiopian-backed Transitional Federal Government and the Islamic Courts Union, but others were forced to flee their nearby homes to escape floods that devastated the region late last year.
Closure of the border since early January has prevented Somalis from reaching refugee camps around the Kenyan town of Dadaab, where they would have received assistance from UNHCR and other aid agencies. Those arriving at the border in recent weeks have sought shelter in Dobley and surrounding villages, some of them staying with their clansmen amid fears of renewed fighting.
According to a local NGO, years of recurrent conflict and the recent flooding has affected the availability of shelter material around Dobley and the nearby town of Afmado. Many families have used polythene bags and sacking to keep the rain out of their tukuls - dome-shaped shelters made from grass and sticks.
Meanwhile, UNHCR has begun shipping emergency aid supplies to help thousands of displaced people in the Galkayo region, which is located just north of southern and central Somalia. The first of two flights carrying a total of 5,000 plastic sheets left the Kenyan port of Mombasa on Wednesday for Galkayo. These supplies will complement materials already flown in by other agencies.
UNHCR sent an emergency team to Galkayo earlier this month to assess the needs of the newly arrived displaced people. The team will remain in Galkayo for another month. UNHCR will soon open an office there and this will be used to direct operations in southern and central Somalia until security conditions allow for the opening of additional bureaux.
There are at least 400,000 internally displaced people from southern and central Somalia, including 250,000 in and around Mogadishu. Many Somalis have fled to other countries, including Kenya. Three camps in the Dadaab region house 160,000 refugees, mainly from Somalia.
By Millicent Mutuli in Nairobi, Kenya