This is a summary of what was said by the UNHCR spokesperson at today's Palais des Nations press briefing in Geneva. Further information can be found on the UNHCR websites, www.unhcr.org and www.unhcr.fr, which should also be checked for regular media updates on non-briefing days.
UNHCR is monitoring a deteriorating situation in south and central Somalia where sporadic fighting has continued to be reported in the towns of Doolow, Bulo Hawo, Luuq, Elwaaq, Dhoobley, Diif and Taabdo. We are again urging all armed groups and forces in Somalia to avoid targeting civilian areas and to ensure that civilians are not being placed in harm's way.
UNHCR estimates that clashes between the forces of the Transitional Federal Government and Al-Shabaab militia have displaced about 33,000 Somalis over the past six weeks. More than half of these are people who have been displaced in Mogadishu. Many are in desperate situations with no access to humanitarian help. Mogadishu already shelters some 372,000 displaced.
In all more than 1.4 million people are displaced inside Somalia. Some of the most recently displaced are people who have fled shelling in Dhoobley, a town just across the border from Liboi in northern Kenya. Dhoobley acts as a final stop-off point for people fleeing Somalia for the Dadaab refugee complex in neighbouring Kenya. According to local sources, the town and its surrounding areas remain tense. Pro-government forces have been consolidating their control of the town, which they took earlier this week.
In Bulo Hawo, a Somali town across the border from Mandera in north-west Kenya, people are in desperate need of shelter. Our staff report that 150 permanent shelters and some 400 to 500 temporary structures were destroyed during recent shelling. The market area has also been destroyed and many people are sleeping outside.
Several local non-governmental organizations have carried out rapid assessments in Elwaaq and Dhoobley. Security and access permitting, we hope our teams will be able, as part of joint UN assessment missions, to visit these and other towns and villages and plan distributions of aid. At the end of March we were able to distribute some 3,000 aid kits to people who had returned to Bulo Hawo after the recent shelling. These kits include plastic sheeting for shelter, blankets, sleeping mats, basic cooking utensils and soap.
Meanwhile, the number of Somali arrivals in Kenya has been steadily growing over the past three months. More than 31,000 Somalis have arrived in Kenya this year alone. Kenya hosts more than half of the 680,000 Somalis who live as refugees in neighboring countries.
For further information on this topic, please contact:
In Nairobi, Kenya (Somalia Ops): Roberta Russo on mobile +254 73 3121 136
Andreas Needham on mobile +254 733 120 931
In Geneva: Andrej Mahecic on mobile +41 79 200 7617