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Fresh clashes drive 60,000 Somalis from their homes, reports UN agency

Fresh clashes drive 60,000 Somalis from their homes, reports UN agency

Ongoing violence in Somalia has forced more than two million people to flee their homes
The United Nations refugee agency today reported that fierce clashes in the Somali town of Beled Hawo on the Kenyan border have driven some 60,000 people from their homes over the past week.

In addition, at least 10 people have been killed in the clashes between Al-Shabaab and Ahlu Sunna Wal Jamaa, a militia group allied to Somalia’s Transitional Federal Government, a spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) told reporters in Geneva.

Andrej Mahecic said most of the displaced have fled to nearby villages and some have crossed into Kenya.

“Of the estimated 40,000 people displaced within Somalia, most are living under trees without shelter, water, food or any sanitation,” he stated. “To make matters worse, it has been raining for days, increasing the risk of an outbreak of disease.”

The agency has already begun registering the new arrivals and is coordinating the humanitarian response. Kenyan authorities and aid agencies are working together with UNHCR to deliver basic services and provide food, water, shelter, medicine and sanitation to the newly displaced.

Mr. Mahecic said that of those who have fled across the border to the northern Kenyan town of Mandera, many are renting houses or being hosted by the local community while waiting for fighting to die down before making a decision on whether to return home.

UNHCR is particularly concerned about the worsening health and security conditions of some 5,000 Somali refugees – predominantly women, children and the elderly – who have been camping out in the open at a makeshift site known as Border Point One since 17 October.

“Our staff in Mandera says the health conditions at the site, which has no shelter or lavatories, are quickly deteriorating. The situation of the refugees is deplorable,” said Mr. Mahecic.

“We are urging the Kenyan authorities to speed up relocation of new arrivals so that people can be moved away from the border and into a reception centre where UNHCR and its partners can attend to their protection and assistance needs,” he added.

There are some 1.46 million internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Somalia, with an additional 614,000 Somalis living as refugees, mostly in neighbouring countries.