UNHCR concerned about new restrictions on humanitarian work in Somalia

News Stories, 1 November 2011

© UNHCR/S.Modola
A young Somali refugee receives an injection at a reception centre in Kenya's sprawling Dadaab complex.

GENEVA, November 29 (UNHCR) The UN refugee agency expressed concern on Tuesday at the decision earlier this week by Somalia's Al Shabaab militia to revoke permission for UNHCR and other UN aid organizations to work in areas controlled by the group.

"This comes at the time of a dire humanitarian crisis in southern and central parts of Somalia," UNHCR spokesman Andrej Mahecic told journalists in Geneva. "We are assessing the impact of this latest development on our humanitarian operations in these parts of Somalia," he added.

The spokesman said military operations and heavy rains were limiting the movements of the displaced population in Somalia's Gedo region bordering Kenya. There have been no cross-border movements between the border towns of Dobley in Somalia and Liboi in Kenya.

However, Mahecic said, there were reports of more than 500 people, including children, travelling on foot from Qooqaani, Tabta (both in Gedo region) and Afmadow (Lower Juba) towards Dobley. "They cite a lack of food in their towns, cut off by the recent rains and military activity. Some people who have already arrived in Dobley told our staff that they were forced to leave their homes due to lack of food," he said.

"They indicated that they are willing to return as soon as the situation improves and are not planning to cross the border in order to reach Dadaab [refugee complex in north-east Kenya]. A number of agencies are operational in Dobley, undertaking distributions of food and other assistance," he added.

Insecurity, meanwhile, continues to hamper UNHCR's operations in Dadaab, which is home to some 460,000 refugees, more than 150,000 of whom arrived this year after fleeing drought and conflict in Somalia. It has been several weeks since the authorities stopped registering new arrivals. Aid agencies cannot assess the number and condition of new arrivals as their movements are still limited in the camps.

More than 360 refugees have been affected by cholera and acute watery diarrhoea. Most are treated as outpatient cases and there is a need for more supplies of oral rehydration salts and other treatments. At Dadaab's Kambioos site, the mortality rate has decreased and it is expected that the situation will further stabilize following food distributions over the weekend.

Despite security restrictions, the authorities managed to complete a mass oral polio vaccination campaign for all refugee children aged under five years. And efforts are continuing to enhance security measures in Dadaab, including the deployment of additional policemen.

In eastern Ethiopia's Dollo Ado camps, UNHCR staff are noting high rates of severe malnutrition among refugee children aged under five years turning up at a transit centre. In response, UNHCR and its partners are expanding a wet feed programme to all children up to the age of 10, and adding milk powder to their porridge to boost nutrient levels.

A fifth camp in that area, Bur Amino, is ready to receive a first batch of more than 7,000 refugees from the transit centre as of tomorrow. The transfers from the Dollo Ado transit centre will start initially with 500 people and will increase gradually until all the refugees are moved to the new site.

But access to these areas is increasingly difficult due to heavy rains. The roads are intermittently impassable and the local airstrip is often flooded preventing aircraft from landing. "This is seriously affecting our supplies and operations as we run low on fuel, electricity and safe drinking water," Mahecic said.

• DONATE NOW •

 

• GET INVOLVED • • STAY INFORMED •

UNHCR country pages

Assistance

From life-saving aid to help with shelter, health, water, education and more.

Crossing the Gulf of Aden

Every year thousands of people in the Horn of Africa - mainly Somalis and Ethiopians - leave their homes out of fear or pure despair, in search of safety or a better life. They make their way over dangerous Somali roads to Bossaso in the northern semi-autonomous region of Puntland.

In this lawless area, smuggler networks have free reign and innocent and desperate civilians pay up to US$150 to make the perilous trip across the Gulf of Aden.

Some stay weeks on end in safe houses or temporary homes in Bossaso before they can depart. A sudden call and a departure in the middle of the night, crammed in small unstable boats. At sea, anything can happen to them - they are at the whim of smugglers. Some people get beaten, stabbed, killed and thrown overboard. Others drown before arriving on the beaches of Yemen, which have become the burial ground for hundreds who many of those who died en route.

Crossing the Gulf of Aden

Somalia/Ethiopia

In February 2005, one of the last groups of Somalilander refugees to leave Aisha refugee camp in eastern Ethiopia boarded a UNHCR convoy and headed home to Harrirad in North-west Somalia - the self-declared independent state of Somaliland. Two years ago Harrirad was a tiny, sleepy village with only 67 buildings, but today more than 1,000 people live there, nearly all of whom are former refugees rebuilding their lives.

As the refugees flow back into Somalia, UNHCR plans to close Aisha camp by the middle of the year. The few remaining refugees in Aisha - who come from southern Somalia - will most likely be moved to the last eastern camp, Kebribeyah, already home to more than 10,000 refugees who cannot go home to Mogadishu and other areas in southern Somalia because of continuing lawlessness there. So far refugees have been returning to only two areas of the country - Somaliland and Puntland in the north-east.

Somalia/Ethiopia

Flood Airdrop in Kenya

Over the weekend, UNHCR with the help of the US military began an emergency airdrop of some 200 tonnes of relief supplies for thousands of refugees badly hit by massive flooding in the Dadaab refugee camps in northern Kenya.

In a spectacular sight, 16 tonnes of plastic sheeting, mosquito nets, tents and blankets, were dropped on each run from the C-130 transport plane onto a site cleared of animals and people. Refugees loaded the supplies on trucks to take to the camps.

Dadaab, a three-camp complex hosting some 160,000 refugees, mainly from Somalia, has been cut off from the world for a month by heavy rains that washed away the road connecting the remote camps to the Kenyan capital, Nairobi. Air transport is the only way to get supplies into the camps.

UNHCR has moved 7,000 refugees from Ifo camp, worst affected by the flooding, to Hagadera camp, some 20 km away. A further 7,000 refugees have been moved to higher ground at a new site, called Ifo 2.

Posted in December 2006

Flood Airdrop in Kenya

Kenya: High Commissioner Visits Dadaab Refugee CampPlay video

Kenya: High Commissioner Visits Dadaab Refugee Camp

Last week the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, António Guterres completed a visit to Kenya and Somalia where he met with the Presidents of the two countries, as well as Somali refugees and returnees.
Kenya: A Lifetime of WaitingPlay video

Kenya: A Lifetime of Waiting

Sarah was born and raised in Hagadera refugee camp in Dadaab, Kenya. Now 21, she has become a wife and mother without ever setting foot outside the camp.
Syria: Aid Reaches Eastern AleppoPlay video

Syria: Aid Reaches Eastern Aleppo

An agreement between the Syrian Government and the opposition allows UNHCR and the Syrian Arab Red Crescent to deliver humanitarian assistance to the besieged city of Aleppo.