Twin blasts in Dadaab raise concerns of worsening security

News Stories, 21 December 2011

© UNHCR/S.Hoibak
Somali refugees make their way past burning rubbish on a street at Ifo camp in Dadaab, Kenya.

GENEVA, December 21 (UNHCR) An improvised explosive device went off on Tuesday near the market at the Ifo refugee camp in Dadaab, Kenya. There were no casualties but a police vehicle was damaged. The explosion came just a day after a blast in nearby Hagadera camp killed one police officer and seriously injured two others.

In a statement issued today, UNHCR expressed alarm at the string of recent security incidents targeting the Dadaab refugee complex in northern Kenya. Dadaab is the world's largest refugee settlement and shelters more than 460,000 people.

In total there have been four explosions at Dadaab since October, when three aid workers were kidnapped. The blasts have killed three Kenyan police officers and wounded four others. There have also been threats against humanitarian agencies working in Dadaab. UNHCR condemned these attacks and called for respect for peace and the civilian nature of the refugee camps.

"We are deeply concerned for the well-being and safety of Somali refugees in Dadaab, most of whom are women, children and elderly," said António Guterres, the UN's High Commissioner for refugees. "For the sake of refugees and those who are there to help them, it is of paramount importance to preserve the peaceful and civilian character of the camps."

A deadly mix of conflict, persecution, drought and famine has seen 295,000 people fleeing Somalia this year. More than half have found shelter at the Dadaab refugee camps in Kenya. Others fled to Ethiopia, Yemen and Djibouti.

In Dadaab, development of new sites, registration, deliveries of emergency assistance and services continued uninterrupted throughout the year. However, since October, growing insecurity has crippled the ability of aid agencies to deliver the all but life-saving assistance mainly food, water and health services. UNHCR and its partners are exploring options to allow full operations to resume.

The situation in Dadaab has been further complicated in recent months by an outbreak of cholera, believed to have started among new arrivals who acquired it in Somalia or en route to Dadaab. Although new cases are now on a downward trend, UNHCR has registered 897 cases, and three deaths, since August. Worsening security, rains and flooding have also made it harder to truck in water to parts of the camps.

Somalia remains one of the worst humanitarian crises in the world. More than 950,000 Somalis live as refugees in neighbouring countries, while another 1.46 million are internally displaced.




UNHCR country pages

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


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.


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

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