Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Invasion of Somalia Major Cause of Displacement

Conflict now major cause for displacement in Somalia, says UN refugee agency

United Nations Report

29 November 2011 –Insecurity and conflict due to insurgency is now one of the main causes for displacement in Somalia’s capital, Mogadishu, the United Nations refugee agency said today, warning that constant fighting is also hampering aid efforts in the country.

“In Mogadishu, we noted a profound change in the root causes driving forced displacement,” said Andrej Mahecic, spokesperson for the Office of the High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). “While drought accounted for the vast majority of displacement in the Somali capital during the first three quarters of the year, as of October we have seen 8,300 people displaced by conflict and just 500 displaced as a result of drought.”

Mr. Mahecic told reporters in Geneva that conflict and military activity were also affecting people’s access to food in other areas in the southern part of the country such as Qooqaani, Tabta and Afmadow, where some 500 people, including children, have left their homes and are travelling by foot to the border town of Dobley, where a number of agencies are distributing food and providing assistance.

UNHCR said this movement of people has happened in spite of the heavy rains which have limited movement in the southern and central parts of the country, while also adding that many people are still reluctant to move, fearing ambushes or getting caught in the crossfire.

Somalia faces a dire humanitarian situation, having endured a drought and famine as well as continued fighting and heavy rains this year, all of which have aggravated the conditions of its estimated 1.46 million internally displaced persons (IDPs).

Conflict is also preventing UN agencies from delivering assistance. UNHCR, the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the World Health Organization (WHO) all expressed concern today about the announcement by insurgent group Al-Shabaab that it would permanently revoke work permissions to several UN organizations in parts in Somalia under their control.

UNICEF and WHO reported that their offices have been raided and occupied, and said they are currently assessing the impact of these actions on their work.

Fighting and insecurity is also affecting refugee camps in neighbouring Kenya, with UN staff reporting that they have been unable to assess the number and condition of new arrivals to the Dadaab complex. However, despite restrictions on movement, authorities have managed to complete an oral polio vaccination campaign for all refugee children less than five years of age.

UNHCR also reported that more than 360 refugees in the camp have been affected by cholera and acute watery diarrhoea, adding that efforts to enhance security measures are being taken so assistance can be delivered as soon as possible.

In addition, the agency said it would increase its efforts in the Dollo Ado camps in Ethiopia as there is a high rate of severe acute malnutrition among resident children under the age of five. In response, UNHCR and partners are expanding their wet feeding programme to all children up to the age of 10, and adding milk powder to porridge to boost nutrient levels.

SOMALIA: Resettlement of drought-displaced begins

Aid agencies in Mogdishu have started a project to resettle thousands of drought-displaced Somalis

NAIROBI, 29 November 2011 (IRIN) - Resettlement of tens of thousands of drought-displaced Somalis, most of whom had sought refuge in the capital, Mogadishu, is under way, with aid agencies organizing voluntary returns to several areas in southern Somalia, officials told IRIN.

“We started a project to resettle some 4,000 families [24,000 people] back to their homes in time for them to take advantage of what is left of the rainy season," said Mohamed Abdullahi Hussein, the director of the United Arab Emirates-Red Crescent Society (UAE-RCS)in Somalia.

Hussein said the agency was providing the returnees with food to last three months, shelter material and between US$100 and $150 per family.

The returns are voluntary, with most going to Bay, Bakool and Lower Shabelle regions of southern Somalia, Hussein added.

Abdullahi Shirwa, head of Somalia's National Disaster Management Agency (NDMA), said it was the government's policy to resettle all internally displaced persons (IDPs). "It is not realistic to maintain hundreds of thousands people in overcrowded IDP camps indefinitely. So the best option is to help return those willing to do so to their home areas."

Shirwa said NDMA had scheduled a meeting this week with aid agencies in Mogadishu to organize a programme of resettlement.

"We basically want to see who can do what," he said. "There are agencies that can provide the food; others can provide the transportation, while others can provide shelter material or cash incentives."

Since UAE-RCS began the return process in November, some 460 drought-displaced families have gone home.

"On 28 November we repatriated 261 families [1,566 people] back to Bay region," said Abubakar Sheikh Bashir, team leader for the UAE-RCS resettlement project.

He said many of the returnees, mostly farmers, were eager to take advantage of the best rains in three years "and restart their lives".

Bashir said many families have already returned on their own, "while others sent back the able-bodied and left behind the elderly, the women and children".

Bishaaro Haji Alin, 45, lost four of her nine children in the drought that devastated her home area in Buur Hakaba in Bay region.

"I was here in the camp for the last six months; if we did not come here I could have lost all of my children," Alin told IRIN by telephone, as she boarded a truck back home.

Alin said she was eager to start planting. "My children are fine and we want to go back to where we belong. We got help here but it is not home."

Home for Alin and her family, along with some 10,000 families, had been the sprawling Tribunka camp, the largest in Mogadishu.

Shirwa of the NDMA said the key to resettling the drought-displaced IDPs was to provide them with enough support to allow them to restart their lives.

"Most of the displaced are agro-pastoralists and so it is not enough to say we will give them food until the next harvest; we need to provide them also with some pack animals and maybe two or three cows or whatever animals they had before," Shirwa said, adding "that will not only empower them but help them start afresh."

This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the Pan-African News Wire

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