United Nations humanitarian agencies announced today that they are stepping up their support for Somalia as the country faces the combined impact of heavy rains, widespread famine and continuing insecurity in the streets.
Thousands of displaced Somalis have been affected by downpours during the current rainy season in parts of Somalia, Kenya and Ethiopia, the United Nations refugee agency reported, adding that it is speeding up efforts to provide emergency assistance in refugee camps.
According to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the rains have flooded some 2,800 people in the Sigale camp in Mogadishu, disrupted the transport system and slowed the pace of internal displacement in the impoverished country.
UNHCR spokesperson Andrej Mahecic told a press briefing in Geneva that the agency has distributed 4,500 assistance kits so far, which include plastic sheets, plastic buckets and soap. He also said that despite the rains slowing down the movement of people, many continue to move away from areas of conflict.
“We are still seeing some movement. In the last week, more than 2,200 people have moved from Afgooye and Daynile, north of Mogadishu, to areas south of the capital in Banadir district. Some say they fled due to general insecurity, while others were trying to return to their home areas in anticipation of deteriorating security,” he said.
Drought and insecurity in Somalia has forced more than 330,000 people to flee the country this year, with the vast majority going to neighbouring Kenya, Ethiopia, Yemen and Djibouti.
In the Dadaab refugee complex in Kenya where some 5,000 people have lost their homes due to the flood waters, UNHCR and its partners have moved them to dryer parts of the camps, and provided blankets and sleeping mats while working to improve drainage in the flooded areas.
Mr. Mahecic also expressed concern for the increasing number of cases of flood-related illnesses in refugees.
“We are seeing a worrying rise in the number of watery diarrhoea cases and a general deterioration of the health situation among refugees, with some 600 people approaching the health centres daily. As part of efforts to prevent disease outbreak, we have started awareness campaigns to encourage refugees to wash their hands, boil water and drink only safe water,” he said.
In addition to providing emergency relief for floods, other UN agencies continue to increase their efforts to help Somalis who suffer from famine and insecurity.
The UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) announced today that it is opening its first transit hub in the port of Dubai to accelerate the delivery of nutrition supplies to Somalia.
According to a news release issued by UNICEF, an estimated 5,000 tons of corn soya blend flour will be moved through the warehouse each month to the worst-affected regions of the country.
There are currently 1.5 million children in southern Somalia who are in dire need of humanitarian assistance, including some 190,000 who are severely malnourished and at high risk of death within weeks if they do not receive the necessary support.
“The humanitarian transit hub will make a major impact in widening our pipeline and also improving the predictability of supply delivery,” said Shanelle Hall, Director of UNICEF’s supply division. “It will help us ensure a regular flow of nutrition supplies for the worst-affected children and their families.”
Over 100 days have passed since famine in southern Somalia was formally declared. Since then a significant scale-up of relief activities have reached 2.2 million people, giving them access to food and water. Insecurity in the country however, has continued, increasing the number of weapons-related injuries and casualties.
During the press briefing, Tarik Jasarevic of the World Health Organization (WHO) said that according to health partners on the ground there were 70 injuries and 12 weapons-related deaths just last week due to fighting in the Lower Juba region, in addition to the 441 casualties that were treated in one hospital last month in Mogadishu. He added that WHO is responding by dispatching trauma kits for surgeries.