Somalia: New displacement and worsening humanitarian and protection crisis for IDPs
An internally displaced woman holds her baby while queueing for food at the Badbado camp in Mogadishu, July 2011 (Photo: UN Photo/Stuart Price)
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31 December 2012
Somalia has experienced two decades of armed conflict, recurrent severe droughts, fragile government institutions and deteriorating humanitarian conditions. It has moved increasingly into the geopolitical spotlight, becoming an epicentre for security and political shockwaves in the Horn of Africa. It has, however, made significant progress with some areas, particularly the capital Mogadishu, becoming more peaceful.
The country’s eight-year transitional period came to end in 2012, the first federal parliament in more than 20 years was sworn in and a new president was elected. Famine conditions in southern Somalia were declared to be over, thanks in large part to an exceptional harvest and the delivery of aid under highly challenging conditions.
Despite these achievements, between 1.1 million and 1.36 million Somalis were still living in internal displacement as of December 2012. UNHCR and its partners estimated that there were around 920,000 IDPs in south-central Somalia, 130,000 in Puntland and 84,000 in Somaliland. Most of the people identified as displaced are believed to have fled armed conflict or generalised violence, and many have done so a number of times. Drought has also led to displacement, particularly of pastoralists. The majority of IDPs are from Mogadishu and the surrounding area, and many have taken refuge in informal settlements around Afgoye.
Ongoing military operations caused new displacements during 2012. In February, Kenyan and Somali troops forced alShabaab militants out of the town of Baidoa, displacing around 7,500 people in the process. In May, around 18,000 IDPs reportedly fled fighting in Afgoye when the AU military mission AMISOM and Somali troops captured the town. Kismayo, the last major city held by al-Shabaab, fell to AU and government forces in September, leading to the displacement of more than 15,000 people. Fighting between various armed groups and localised violence over water and pasture also continued to cause new displacements. Although insecurity remained a challenge, Somalia witnessed an increase in return movements in 2012. It is estimated that more than 32,000 IDPs returned to their areas of origin, particularly to areas considered relatively safe.
Despite some progress towards the achievement of durable solutions for protracted IDPs in Puntland and Somaliland, the displaced population in Somalia as a whole remains vulnerable and faces food insecurity and a wide range of protection problems. The protracted armed conflicts have been characterised by a lack of accountability, with violations of international humanitarian law and human rights abuses committed by all parties.
They have reportedly attacked IDP camps, perpetrated widespread sexual and other gender-based violence, forcibly recruited internally displaced children and fought each other near civilian settlements. IDPs’ health situation remained critical in 2012 with most outbreaks of contagious diseases coming in areas hosting displaced people. Developments such as increased security, an improving economy and urban migration led to an increase in forced evictions of IDPs in urban centres across the country such as Mogadishu, Hargeisa and Bosaso. A number of the most vulnerable victims were unable to seek refuge elsewhere because of their limited resources.
Somalia had signed but not ratified the Kampala Convention as of the end of 2012. The country has no national legal or policy framework on internal displacement yet, but the authorities in Puntland adopted a policy on IDPs, and the Somaliland administration was in the process of developing one.
International humanitarian access was better in Somaliland and Puntland than in south-central Somalia, where local businesses and national civil society organisations were the main providers of assistance to IDPs. Access gradually improved during 2012, but the country has long presented a challenging operating environment for international agencies. The fighting and deliberate obstruction by some parties to the conflict continued to restrict IDPs’ access to assistance and protection severely, and to undermine aid workers’ personal safety.
In December 2012 a CAP humanitarian appeal for Somalia was launched in the country for the first time. The appeal covered three years instead of the usual one, in an effort not only to target immediate humanitarian needs, but to enhance resilience and address the protracted nature of the crisis in the country. The three-year timeframe also allows for greater continuity in programming and creates an opportunity to make the impact of humanitarian action more sustainable.
Tens of thousands displaced by severe floods in East Africa (18 April 2013)
An estimated 18,000 people have been displaced in Kenya since 19 March due to floods caused by unusually heavy rain. Floods have affected districts in nearly all parts of the country, though three quarters of those affected were inhabitants of the Coast Province and upper Eastern Province.
The Kenyan Red Cross is distributing food and non-food items to affected families, but medical care and additional food and shelter is still needed. In Kisumu County, the Nyanza provincial director of medical services has urged health officials in flood-prone areas to be on high alert, as the number of people suffering from water-borne diseases had increased .
On April 14, Deputy President William Ruto pledged Sh1.6 billion to contain floods and landslides, repair roads and buy food and basic necessities for the affected families. He added that the government would soon establish a disaster management authority , as recommended in the draft national disaster management p olicy developed in 2009.
Neighbouring areas of Somalia have experienced three times the normal levels of rainfall since 1 April, which have resulted in destroyed crops and displaced an unconfirmed number of people. According to a joint assessment mission to Abudwaq, heavy rain destroyed urban properties and IDP settlements . The most affected were IDPs living in dilapidated huts made of old sacks, clothes, cartons and sticks in four settlements located on low-lying ground near a natural water catchment; about 30% of residents of the settlements were displaced.
Floods have also destroyed homes in Burundi and triggered evacuations in Rwanda and Uganda due to average and above-average rainfall.
Somalia: Africa Union offensive in Kismayo exacerbates displacement (23 August 2012)
An offensive on the Southern Somali port city of Kismayo, considered one of al-Shebaab’s last strongholds, by the UN-backed African Union (AU) has caused civilian casualties and the displacement of people from their homes.
Reports suggest that on August, 14th Kenyan AU troops started bombarding the city. Thousands of Kismayo’s residents are believed to have fled the city in anticipation of the attacks, though no accurate figures are known as yet. “There is a large IDP population and they are very likely to get caught up in the fighting,” said Justin Brady, a UN official working on Somalia. The displaced are mostly migrating towards the Jubba river and Mogadishu, putting increased strain on pre-existing IDP communities in these regions.
The UN’s Somalia Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator Mark Bowden fears that “civilians may get trapped between fighting forces , further restricting their access to life-saving support and humanitarian assistance”.
New displacement and increasing humanitarian and protection concerns (20 February 2012)
According to the BBC, on 15 February Somali government forces and their African Union allies launched an offensive on Afgooye town near Mogadishu to flush out Al-Shabaab fighters. The town is home to the biggest concentration of IDPs in Somalia, with an estimated 400,000 people living in shanty dwellings. The shelling of the town forced IDPs who had sought refuge in Afgoye since 2007 to flee back to Mogadishu, fearing for their lives.
Fighting also reportedly broke out on 8 February in the north between forces of the self-proclaimed Republic of Somaliland and clan militias loyal to the newly-created Khatumo State, which is on a disputed area between Somaliland and the self-declared autonomous region of Puntland. An estimated 6,000 people took refuge in nearby villages; the IDPs are in urgent need of shelter and food assistance.
Meanwhile, growing insecurity in South Galkayo in central Somalia has forced aid agencies to withdraw, with serious implications for an estimated 60,000 IDPs who are facing shortages of food, shelter and medical help. IDPs in camps in Somaliland are also facing growing threats to their safety and integrity, due to an increase in the number of rape cases and domestic violence incidents.
Somalia: Escalation in fighting puts IDPs at further risk (7 October 2011)
UNHCR has raised concerns about the impact on IDPs of the renewed fighting between insurgent groups in southern Somalia. The escalation in violence around the town of Dobley near the border with Kenya is reportedly worsening the already dire humanitarian situation of IDPs, with the fighting hindering the flight of people using Dobley as a transit point from which to seek refuge in Kenya.
Meanwhile, a suicide bombing attack near government buildings in Mogadishu on Tuesday, which killed over 70 people, has led to fears that humanitarian access to displaced people will be further limited.
Somalia: New displacement and protection risks for IDPs (23 September 2011)
An estimated 34,000 IDPs who were forced to flee their famine-affected home areas in search of food have been displaced again by fighting between forces loyal to the Somali government and the insurgent Al-Shabaab group in the town of Eil Waq on the Kenya-Somalia border . They are now reportedly scattered in the bush without any assistance.
Meanwhile, the UN has added the Afgooye corridor and Mogadishu, which between them host hundreds of thousands of people internally displaced by Somalia’s conflict, to those areas affected by famine. However, both paramilitaries allied to the UN-backed government and insurgents have reportedly prevented IDPs accessing food aid.
In another development, authorities in the semi-autonomous Puntland State of Somalia are planning to introduce a scheme to issue ID cards to IDPs from southern Somalia. According to the UN’s IRIN news agency, Puntland officials say that the scheme would help to distinguish “militias and other criminal elements from genuine IDPs”. Puntland’s Minister for Home Affairs denied accusations of discrimination against people from Southern Somalia in Puntland. UNHCR and other agencies have held initial talks with the state government on the scheme.
Two decades of conflict and Somalia’s most severe drought in 60 years have led to the United Nations (UN) declaring famine in parts of southern Somalia. In September, four million people – more than half the country’s population – were in urgent need of food aid and other assistance, and it was feared that some 750,000 people could starve if the funding and security situation did not improve. By November, the short rainy season had begun but the food security of IDPs was expected to remain extremely poor for the remainder of the year.
The famine was threatening the lives of many of the 1.5 million people displaced within Somalia by the conflict. Malnutrition rates among internally displaced populations in Mogadishu and Afgoye were up to three times the critical emergency threshold. (...)
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9 December 2011
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Previous Profile updates
- Key Documents
- Somalia Consolidated Appeal 2013-2015, UN OCHA, 7 December 2012
- Somalia Human Development Report 2012: Empowering youth for peace and development, UNDP, 28 October 2012
- Report of the Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in Somalia, HRC, 24 September 2012
- Protection Cluster IDP Relocation Position Paper, Somalia Protection Cluster, 21 July 2012
- Report of the Monitoring Group on Somalia and Eritrea pursuant to Security Council resolution 2002 (2011), UN SC, 13 July 2012
- Between protracted and crisis: displacement Policy responses to Somali displacement, Refugee Studies Center (RSC), University of Oxford, 2012
- Unlocking protracted displacement: Exploring recurring Somali displacement, Refugee Studies Center (RSC), University of Oxford, August 2011
- Political Progress, Humanitarian Stalemate, Refugees International (RI), 3 April 2009