OCHA Humanitarian Newsmaker: Vol 1, Issue 8 - Oct 2007

from UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
Published on 05 Oct 2007

Humanitarian Alert in the Wake of UN's Somali Region Report

Up to 1.8 million people in the Somali Region of Ethiopia could be affected in a major humanitarian crisis in the coming months, if recommendations from a recent United Nations mission are not implemented, a UN OCHA official says.

"We will see a major crisis develop in the next month unless there is a resumption of livestock trade and export, commercial and humanitarian food distribution, urgent healthcare, and access by government service providers and humanitarian partners", said Paul Hebert, Head of UN OCHA in Ethiopia, who led the UN mission to the Somali Region between 30 August and 5 September.

The mission's report was released on 20th September but the estimated magnitude of a possible crisis - up to 1.8 million affected - is new.

The Somali Region is cur rently the theatre of a Government crack-down on opposition fighters from the Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF). The mission found that the humanitarian situation in areas affected by the military operations already has deteriorated substantially.

A summary of the report says that "the food securit y situation [in Somali Region] is expected to worsen progressively if conditions related to commercial and livestock trade are not improved. The mission predicts rapid deterioration in the nutritional status of people within two to three months if commercial food continues to be available only in limited quantities".

The report notes that food prices have doubled over the past three months and recommends the resumption of livestock exportation, the re-establishment of legal cross-border trade with Somalia and/or increased internal trade to provide commercial food and distribution of food aid for 600,000 people for three months.

The OCHA-led mission observed communicable diseases including scabies in children as well as an acute shortage of drugs and medical supplies. In interviews with the civilian population the team also encountered a pervasive fear for individual safety and securit y. Many respondents expressed frustration at being caught between the Ethiopian National Defense Forces (ENDF) and the ONLF.

The Government of Ethiopia said in a 19 September statement that it will "ensure that the humanitarian needs of the people in the Region, including health services and nutrition requirements, are effectively addressed without further delay in collaboration with the relevant organs of the United Nations System and other partners".

Meanwhile, the International Committee of the Red Cross and NGO Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) continue to be denied access to the affected population after the Ethiopian government told the two humanitarian organizations to leave the Somali Region and the country respectively in August. An additional report on human rights and protection in the Somali Region - still confidential - has been prepared following the UN assessment mission and presented to the government in Addis Ababa, said Paul Hebert.

Displacement dynamics in CEA:

Mixed Trend in the First Half of 2007

The overall picture in population movements - refugee flows, internal displacement, repatriation and return - in the Central and East African region (CEA) has been mixed in the first half of 2007 and shows both new large-scale displacement and high numbers of people returning to their places of origin, a new "Displaced Populations Report" from OCHA Regional Office in Nairobi found.

By mid-2007, the IDP population in CEA is estimated to be 8,891,438 people, compared to 9,982,921 IDPs registered at the end of 2006. Djibouti, Tanzania and Rwanda maintain the status of officially having no IDPs, save for temporary displacements as a result of climatic conditions like flooding. In Kenya and Ethiopia there are no official reports on the status or statistics of IDPs. New displacements as a result of ethnic conflicts were however noted in both countries during the first half of 2007, the report says.

At the same time, an estimated 1,680,214 returnees were recorded in several parts of the region by mid-2007. Cross-border raids and displacements from Darfur in early 2007 resulted in new displacements of over 65,000 in Central African Republic (CAR) and 59,973 in Chad. Of the current 2.2 million IDPs in Darfur, 248,414 are new displacements since January 2007.

There has been a slight increase of about 64,472 refugees recorded mostly in Sudan, following influxes from Chad and Eritrea. By June 2007, there were an estimated 2,031,791 refugees in the region compared to 1,967,319 refugees recorded by UNHCR at the end of December 2006.

In addition to on-going armed conflict, generalized insecurity and States' incapacity to effectively address human rights violations, extreme weather conditions such as floods and droughts have been responsible for temporary displacements in several parts of the CEA region.

The "Displaced Populations Report" consists largely of statistical data and maps illustrating and summarizing the displacement trends from January till June 2007.

Report link: http://ochaonline2.un.org/LinkClick.aspx?link=ocha&docid=1071206

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