SOMALIA:UNHCR says Somali exodus slows in Horn of Africa
Laaska News August 27,2011
by Peter Mutai
NAIROBI, Aug. 26 (Xinhua) — The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has noted an evolving displacement pattern during August with fewer Somalis displaced within their country or into Kenya or Ethiopia, but rising arrivals in Yemen amid drought- related crisis in the Horn of Africa.
UNHCR said on Friday that almost no movements or returns were recorded in districts of Mogadishu, previously under Al Shabaab control, mainly due to insecurity, now in the form of guerrilla warfare.
”UNHCR’s Population Movement Tracking (PMT) partners in Somalia have reported a significant drop in the numbers of people arriving in Mogadishu,” the UN agency said in a statement received in Nairobi.
According to UNHCR, it appears that the influx of internally displaced people (IDPs) into Mogadishu peaked in July, when nearly 28,000 fled to the Somali capital in search of humanitarian help. However, since the beginning of this month, just over 5,000 displacements into the city have been recorded, UNHCR said. The average daily arrival rate in the city dropped from more than 1, 000 per day last month to an estimated 200 in August.
The African Union Peacekeeping Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) has also imposed restrictions on civilian movement or return to previously Al Shabaab-controlled areas while security operations are conducted, it said.
“We are also seeing reports of Al Shabaab continuing to place restrictions on movement in areas under its control, particularly movements of men, most notably in the Lower Shabelle and Bay regions in the wake of the Al Shabaab withdrawal from the capital on Aug. 6,” it said. This has prevented large population movements, especially from Lower Shabelle, into Mogadishu, the UN refugee agency said.
The humanitarian crisis in the Horn of Africa, caused by a combination of insecurity, drought and hunger at famine levels in southern Somalia, is causing massive displacement within the country and refugee flows across borders into Kenya, Yemen, Ethiopia, and Djibouti.
Nearly half of Somalia’s 7.5 million people have been affected by drought, and a quarter of the population has sought refuge in neighboring countries since the beginning of the year.
UN has declared famine in five regions in southern Somalia, amid growing concern that the famine could quickly spread across the country and may affect other areas of the Horn of Africa if not addressed through rapid action.
Kenya, with nearly 498,000 Somali refugees, remains the largest host country but the agency said the pace of arrivals to the Dadaab refugee complex has slowed to 1,000 to 1,200 people per day, from 1,500 previously.
“At the same time, our staff on the ground say the overall health state of the latest arrivals, particularly the children, is worse than previously, reflecting the drought and hunger situations inside,” UNHCR said. According to the UN agency, some of the new arrivals say they came from Al Shabaab areas of Gedo and Lower Juba, where insecurity had seriously hampered aid delivery.
UNHCR said IDPs interviewed by PMT partners also indicate that donations from the Somali Diaspora and mobilization by local and host communities in July and August to assist the affected populations during the holy month of Ramadan may have enabled people to remain where they were.
It said the international and local organizations, including UNHCR, have been better placed to deliver aid to famine- affected populations in Bay, Gedo, south Bakool and Hiraan regions, particularly in areas along the Kenya and Ethiopia borders.
“This has helped to reduce the pressure on Mogadishu as a destination to seek aid. UNHCR this week completed the distribution of 3,000 Emergency Assistance Packages (EAPs) for up to 18,000 people in the Hiraan region, which is under Al Shabaab control,” UNHCR said.
The relocation operation for recent arrivals who had been encamped on the outskirts of Dadaab’s camps has now transferred nearly 27,000 Somalis into family tents at the Ifo Extension and Kambioos sites.
Meanwhile, bucking the trend of the slowing outflow in the Horn of Africa, the agency said Yemen is seeing a sharp rise in the number of Somali refugees arriving on rickety boats across the Gulf of Aden.
More than 3,700 Somali refugees have reached Yemen’s coast so far in August, marking an earlier than normal start to the traditional peak season for smugglers’ boats to arrive from Bossaso in northern Somalia, and is the highest monthly arrival rate so far this year.
“The new arrivals tell our staff they fled Somalia because of the unstable security situation, severe drought, high food prices and lack of job opportunities. It is testament to the refugees’ desperation that they have chosen to flee to Yemen, which is itself affected by serious unrest,” UNHCR said.