Forced displacement in Somalia shows ‘no signs of easing,’ UN agency warns

Carrying whatever possessions they can, women arrive at a camp for Internally Displaced People (IDPs) established next to a base of the African Union Mission for Somalia (AMISOM) near Jowhar. UN Photo/Tobin Jones

Carrying whatever possessions they can, women arrive at a camp for Internally Displaced People (IDPs) established next to a base of the African Union Mission for Somalia (AMISOM) near Jowhar.
UN Photo/Tobin Jones

Geneva, 16 September 2014 – Alarming circumstances such as forced evictions, drought, conflict and lack of livelihood have forced over 130,000 people from their homes in Somalia so far this year, with the majority being internally displaced, warned the United Nations refugee agency today.

“Insecurity was the main cause of internal displacement, with some 38,000 people fleeing their homes because of military conflict,” Babar Baloch, spokesperson for the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), told journalists in Geneva.

According to Mr. Baloch, approximately 7,000 people have fled the ongoing military offensive in South Central Somalia in the past eight months. While the displacement is likely to be temporary, assistance is still largely in need. However, due to military activity, access to towns is so limited that using expensive airlifts is often the only way to reach people.

“UNHCR is engaged in dialogue with its counterparts in the Somali authorities to ensure that such evictions did not violate basic human rights,” said Mr. Baloch, given the fact that almost 33,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) have been uprooted from private and Government owned land and buildings.

In the port city of Kismayo, where some 15,600 have been affected, UNHCR has distributed basic relief items to 3,000 displaced families in recent weeks. However, additional distributions are required.

“Many people are living in sites lacking basic services in shelters made of sticks, grass and empty cardboard boxes,” said Mr. Baloch, adding that “incidents of gender based violence, and rape of young girls and women by militias operating outside the settlements had been reported.”

In this regard, Corinne Momal-Vanian, Director of UN Information Centre in Geneva, said that the UN Mission in Somalia (UNSOM) is committed to the respect of human rights and the protection of Somalia’s most vulnerable communities, especially women and children.

She added that the UN and the African Union Mission to Somalia (AMISOM) have been working closely to tackle such issues, and AMISOM troops have undergone a human rights pre-deployment training.

In addition to those internally displaced in the Horn of Africa nation, some 23,000 have fled across its borders to Yemen, Kenya, and Ethiopia in the previous eight months. Yemen, for example, has received 11,000 new arrivals from South Central Somalia, mostly affected by drought, food insecurity and poverty. About 9,000 Somalis have arrived in Kenya while Ethiopia has registered over 3,000 refugees. There are a total of 957,000 Somali refugees in the region.