Somalia Information Report 1 March - 30 April 1997

from UN Department of Humanitarian Affairs
Published on 02 May 1997
Period covered: 1 March - 30 April 1997
This report has been prepared by the office of the United Nations Development Programme and Resident Representative for Somalia


The overall nutrition situation in southern Somalia is not improving, and capacity to access the most vulnerable groups is dependent on the fluctuating security situation. Close monitoring of the Benadir, Bay, Bakool, Gedo, and Juba valley regions are currently underway.

To date, UNHCR and partner agencies have successfully repatriated 2,500 refugees from Ethiopia to the Northwest. A further 7,500 are expected to return to the area, pending receipt of funds for a joint reintegration programme.

Six members from the management staff of Berbera port got the opportunity to visit six ports in India, as part of a training visit sponsored by the UNDP / EC/ UNCTAD Ports management and rehabilitation project.

South Mogadishu continues to be plagued by sporadic fighting, banditry, and extortion incidents; the absence of UN international staff to assist in monitoring of programmes in the city is having a negative effect on the security of local staff and the sustainability of the ongoing programmes.


Mogadishu / South Central Regions

South Mogadishu continues to experience sporadic fighting, which in many cases has caused civilian casualties. Following a brief period of quiet in March and early April, fighting between the forces of Hussein Aidid and Osman Ato broke out in the Kilometer 7 (K7) area in late April. On 26 and 28 April, the two groups engaged in these areas, with at least ten persons reported killed and twenty wounded as a result of indiscriminate mortar shell firing. Local press described the fighting on 28 April as the heaviest in two months. Other incidents include a battle over tax collection in Bakara market, which resulted in the firing of an RPG into a fuel tank, injuring several civilians. During the third week of March, personal disputes between the Abgal and Haber Gedir families escalated into targeted kidnappings and killings; at least six bodies were found in the green line area related to these disputes. Elders under the Imam of Hirab made progress in solving this problem ending with a meeting at the Ramadan hotel on 11 April. Sporadic shelling was reported in the Medina area in late March, and from 11-13 April, fighting was reported in the Bermuda area following a militia dispute.

Several incidents occurred during the period affecting UN Agency and NGO staff. On 3 April, a UNICEF/ WHO mission visiting the city was attacked when passing the green line at the Towfiq path. A group of militia, including two technical vehicles and 25 militia-men, shot at the convoy and demanded money. Later the group was allowed to proceed without harm. The mission proceeded to the UNICEF compound, where they were surrounded by the militia for three hours. The Aidid administration later assisted in dispersing the group. Another incident occurred on 7 April when 11 former WFP guards forced their way into the UNDP / WFP compound in south Mogadishu. The group was unarmed but demanded settlement of an outstanding contract issue from 1992. The matter is still under discussion. Also during the first week of April, WHO local staff in South Mogadishu was threatened following a claim by local money traders. On 21 April, local press reported the killing of two persons from a local NGO Markaz Al-salama in south Mogadishu. Bandits were reported to have carried out the attack and they looted personal property following the incident.

In North Mogadishu, the situation between Ali Mahdi and Sheik Ali Dheere has improved since his reinstatement as Sharia court chairman, although some banditry incidents continued during the first half of March. Action Contre la Faim (ACF) reported that one of their Supplementary Feeding Centres (SFC) was looted on 10 March, and a second SFC was threatened by an individual with a grenade. Other NGOs experienced similar incidents in the Lower Shabelle region during this time. From 5-6 April, some fighting took place north of North Mogadishu between two sub-clans of the Abgal family.

The political negotiations for the reconciliation of Benadir region continue to move forward, although at a slow pace. Mr. Ali Mahdi Mohamed and Mr. Hussein Aidid met in Nairobi during the first half of March. Both traveled separately to Cairo, Egypt for discussions about the peace process. Mr. Aidid also met with President Moi of Kenya and President Museveni of Uganda during the period. On 29 April, local press reported that Hussein Aidid and Osman Ato held talks in Sanaa, Yemen toward the implementation of the Nairobi peace accord, including a cease-fire in the city. A meeting between Ali Mahdi, Hussein Aidid, and Osman Ato is expected to take place shortly.

The UN Political Office for Somalia (UNPOS) traveled to Mogadishu on 3 April and reported positive meetings with both sides. On 22 April, UNPOS convened a meeting of external actors in Nairobi to assess the present state of the peace process in Somalia in which briefings were provided by Mr. Felix Mosha, the UN Secretary-Generals Representative for Somalia, EU Special Envoy Mr. Sigurd Illing, and Ambassador Giuseppe Cassini, the Italian Special Envoy. There was agreement by the three on the progress that is being made at the joint committee of the Haber-Gedir and Modulod clans. It was also felt that others, such as supporters of Osman Ato, Musa Sudi, the Murusade and the Bantu representatives should be included at some later stages in order to find lasting peace in Mogadishu. The SSDF (hosts of the proposed Bossaso meeting as a follow-up to Sodere) informed Ambassador Cassini that the NSC meeting would take place in October as opposed to 10 June as earlier proposed. Skepticism as to dates, venue, and participants presently prevails within the international community.

Jowhar / Central Regions

Tension increased in the Jowhar region during the period. On 8 March, two persons were severely injured and five others were wounded following an escalated fight during a football match. Local police were blamed for shooting into the crowd at random. Then on 9 March, police who were attempting to disarm a gunman in the local market opened fire and killed two civilians while wounding two others, including an off-duty local UN security guard. This incident later escalated into an inter-clan dispute against the police. The fighting lasted the remainder of the day, leaving 13 persons wounded. Fighting was again reported on the morning of 10 March, but ceased that afternoon, following the intervention of elders and the governor of the region. Banditry incidents are also on the rise in the town. On 19 March, 40 million Somali shillings were stolen from a pharmacy by an armed bandit. Two persons were injured on 20 March during an unsuccessful attempt to loot a tractor by two armed bandits.

On 30 March, the son of a well known religious leader was killed. The main road between Middle Shabelle and Hiraan regions was reported to be under the control of many militia road blocks.

Following its withdrawal since January 1997, MSF-Spain resumed its presence and activities on 2 March following the agreement reached with its landlord to relocate MSF-S residential quarters to a building given by the local authorities.

The areas of Bulo Burti and Jalalaqsi districts in the Hiraan region were reported quiet following earlier tensions in these areas. Tension increased in Belet Weyne for a short period when a vehicle belonging to the Italian NGO COSV was attacked by two gunmen on 21 March. During the exchange of fire, one civilian was killed and two other persons wounded, including a COSV security guard. COSV subsequently evacuated Belet Weyne, but were able to return and resume operations as of 7 April.

North of Jowhar in the Madadey district, fighting began during the end of March between the Galjael and Hawadle families. Looting of vehicles, food stores, and villages burnt by both militia groups were reported. On 20 April, the most severe fighting between the two clans was reported, where at least 10 persons were killed and another 40 injured. During the last week of April, the local authorities, elders and members of the regional council of Jowhar invited members of the Galjael and Hawadle clans for a reconciliation meeting.

Kismayo / Juba Valley / Southern Regions

In early March, all international staff relocated from Kismayo following threats received from various groups and increased tension from all sides. The absence of General Morgan for several months from Kismayo has further led to an upset in the balance of power and authority in the town. Following increased tension as a result of looted vehicles and other disputes, the Marehan and Majerteen families resorted to fighting on 23 March. Nine persons were killed in shooting incidents at the airport and the main market. Subsequently, Marehan families were reported to have left Kismayo town. Although no subsequently fighting has taken place in the town to date, a main battle front remains in the town of Gobwein, just north of Kismayo. Marehan militia were reported to have received some support from the Gedo region. Tension in Badade between two Ogaden families was resolved in mid-March following the intervention of elders.

FAO reported on 29 April that a consignment of seeds, pesticides and sprayers was looted in Jilib on its way from Mogadishu to Buale. The goods were traveling with a locally-hired trucking contractor and logistician when the rains forced the vehicle to stop in Jilib and off-load to a tractor. The tractor was looted while being loaded in Jilib town, and the goods were reportedly taken to a nearby village. The Aidid administration is currently involved in attempting to return the stolen goods. The remainder of the Juba valley has remained relatively quiet. Rains in late March and April have made many of the access roads in the area impassable.

Bay / Gedo / Southwest Regions

There were no reports of cross-border fighting between the Ethiopian army and the Al-Itahad militia in the Gedo region, although both sides continue to face-off at the border towns of Dolow and Bulo Hawa. On 25 March, the Al-Itahad group was reported to have taken control of El-Wak, a Kenya-Somali border town some 175 km south of Mandera town, with little resistance. Reports were received that the SNF in Gedo region recruited some Marehan militia to reinforce their position against the Al-Itahad groups.

The areas of Baidoa, Wajid and Hoddur were reported tense during the period. During the second week of March, an ICRC convoy traveling from the area to the Gedo region was stopped by militia of Hussein Aidid, but later allowed to proceed. On 19 March, fighting between the Leysan and Luway sub-clans was reported about 15 km outside Baidoa town on the road to Qansahdhere. Elders later mediated to stop the fighting. In early and mid-April, inter-clan fighting broke out in the Bakool region between two sub-clans of the Rahanweyne. Militia were reported to have looted and burned several villages as well as destroyed underground food stores, causing a population movement from these areas toward the Ethiopian border towns of Dolow and Suftu.

Northeast Regions

Overall, the regions of the Northeast were quiet during the period, with few security incidents. Tension between the SSDF, a splinter SSDF group, and the local administration resulted in a few minor incidents. On 9 March, an RPG was fired into one of the administration buildings of Bossaso; no person was injured. During mid-March, threats to UN international staff were received from a splinter group of the SSDF. The Secretary-General of the SSDF immediately took action and local authorities were able to insure security. No threat to international operations was perceived as a result. On 21 March, following the resignation of Sheikh Yusuf Ali Said, the regional governor of Bari, the SSDF splinter group organised a demonstration in his favor. A short exchange of fire took place when the police were dispersing the demonstrators, but no person was injured. As of the first week of April, the Bossaso administration had nominated a new governor. However, as the SSDF and the council of elders had not been involved in the selection process, they refused to recognize the administrations choice. The issue is currently under negotiation.

On 18 March, a UNDP / UNOPS vehicle was ambushed by five armed men in Timirshe village, Kandala district, Bari region. Within a few days, however, the local authorities arrested the abductors and returned the vehicle. However, on 29 April, the UNCT / UNCTAD security officer was warned against UN travel to this village, as abductors have once again threatened to loot a UN vehicle. On 25 March, the UN Resident Coordinator visited Bossaso and held talks with the regional administration and the SSDF on the latest developments in the Northeast as well as the drought response. In mid-April, several Somali families who paid and boarded a ship they believed was destined for Yemen were forcefully disembarked at the port of Maihd in the Sool region after a few hours of navigation along the Somali coast. Northeast and Northwest authorities are investigating the incident. On 22 April, a shooting occurred in Bossaso port in which it was reported one person was killed. The incident was believed to be related to a funds collection or payment issue. The UNCT / UNCTAD security officer is presently monitoring the situation.

During the second half of April, a delegation from the Dutch government together with the UNICEF Somalia Representative Dr. Agostino Paganini visited the region to visit water projects supported in Allula, Iskushuban, and Bossaso towns. A UNCHS Habitat mission also visited Bossaso to assess town planning issues.

Hargeisa / Northwest Regions

Following the election which concluded in late February, Hargeisa has remained relatively quiet. On 3 March, the Egal administration forwarded a letter to all UN Agencies and international NGOs operating in the Northwest requesting them to upgrade their representatives in the region or leave the area within three weeks. Following two visits of the UN Resident Coordinator, Mr. Dominik Langenbacher, on 5-6 March and 26 March, the issue has been somewhat defused. The exact question of type of representation is still under discussion. Other issues discussed with the Egal administration included the reintegration of returnees from Ethiopia as well as the ongoing response to the drought and water development situation.

Mr. Egals 16-man committee mandated to recommend an appropriate all clan inclusive cabinet/ group of ministers is proceeding well, and the expectation of a new governance era is reportedly high. A 3-member team consisting of representatives from the Haber Jaelo, Haber Yunis, and Habar Awal families is currently designing a plan to restore peace in Burao and its environs. During the first week of April, groups of elders from the Burao region were reported to have arrived in Hargeisa for further discussion on the settlement of Burao town.

The UN security officer for the Northwest has traveled to Salahley area and reported that the situation there is appropriate to resume activities and field trips for the organisations to the area, pending prior clearance. Travel off the tarmac road where land mines are reported will be prohibited, however. Fly-in travel to Erigavo, Las Anod, and their immediate environs is reported as safe. Roads from other regions to these towns in Sool and Sanaag have been reported to have a number of check points, resulting in banditry and looting incidents. Prior clearance by the security officer is therefore recommended before road travel in these regions.

The Somaliland shilling has stabilized at an average exchange rate of 2,145 shillings to the US dollar.



Response to Drought Update

Flooding now in some parts of Somalia.

Although rains have come to the vast majority of Somali towns, the lingering effect of drought and resulting increased vulnerability in many areas is still evident. From April to June, communities which experienced a poor Deyr harvest will have to rely on other means for food until the next harvest season in July and August. ICRC has distributed seeds to approximately 50,000 farming families throughout the southern Somali agricultural zone, the largest such distribution to take place in over one year. WFP is also preparing to make targeted distributions through NGOs to some of the most vulnerable groups in the Lower Juba area. Local cereals are reported in short supply at high prices in many areas of southern Somalia.

UN Agencies and NGOs have developed a coordinated drought recovery programme to address food and water needs through July in central and southern Somalia. Task forces in the Northeast and Northwest parts of the country continue to coordinate their efforts locally between agencies, NGOs, and local authorities. In southern Somalia, UNICEF took the lead under the UN Joint Emergency Committee together with the Food security task force to ensure an adequate response. During March, UNICEF distributed Supermix to partner NGOs for distribution to the most vulnerable populations in southern Somalia, including groups in Mogadishu, Belet Weyne, Baidoa / Dinsor, Burhakaba, Buale, Wajir, and Badade. Health monitoring will increase in the areas where large herds have been brought to water, such as Afmadow, Badade, Hagar, and Doble in the Juba valley, due to a number of dead animal carcasses near the watering wells.

Although rains have helped to relieve the livestock and planting situation, they have also caused the seasonal flooding in the riverbank areas. On 18 April, the Shabelle River was reported flooded in several areas of Jowhar and Madadey districts, affecting at least 16 villages. UNICEF provided Supermix to the most vulnerable groups.

Health and Nutrition Update

Overall, the nutritional situation in southern Somalia has not improved. In Mogadishu, there continues to be an increase in the numbers of IDPs coming to the Supplementary and Therapeutic Feeding Centres (SFCs and TFCs). During the month of March, Action Contre la Faim (ACF) reported increases in new admissions to both SFCs and TFCs in South Mogadishu, the majority continue to be coming from outside the city. The situation in North Mogadishu is slightly better, with only a slight increase in SFC admissions and a decrease in new admissions to the TFC. In the Bay region, IMC and SRCS have noted an increase in global malnutrition cases seen in their MCHs over the same period last year. Many of the malnourished persons are also coming from the surrounding villages to centres in Baidoa, Dinsor, and Qansaxdhere districts. At present, IMC has begun a UNICEF Supermix distribution to the MCHs in Dinsor and Baidoa, and WFP may begin a small scale relief distribution in the Bay region soon with local food purchased through the monetization programme, pending adequate security and staff presence arrangements. MSF-France has begun support to the Baidoa hospital. In the Gedo region, SCF-UK did not note any particular problems in Bardera, thought to be due to the opening of the MSF-France TFC in the area, but the surrounding villages in Gedo are presently difficult to access and it is believed that their nutritional situation may be deteriorating. In Hiraan region, International Medical Corps (IMC) reported that the nutritional situation has deteriorated since January 1997. The situation in Kismayo is also thought to be deteriorating somewhat since the departure of international UN and NGO staff as a result of insecurity. MSF-Belgium sent a small emergency-response team to assess the situation in late April.

To improve monitoring and early warning for potential emergency nutrition situations, a nutrition working group has been established under the leadership of the nutritionist from WFPs Food Security Assessment Unit. The group, which functions as part of the overall health sector coordination group, has developed a standardized form for growth monitoring in MCHs and will review all nutrition data against scientific standards before information is released. The data collected will form the basis for a Nutritional Surveillance System, which will exist as part of the computerized Health Information System for Somalia developed by WHO and UNDOS. In February, the nutrition working group published detailed recommendations for conducting nutritional surveys.

Cholera Update

In general, WHO reports the number of cholera cases increased in late March and early April after a temporary decline throughout most of March. As of 24 April, a total of 3,346 cases have been reported since November 1996 with 99 deaths (Case Fatality Rate 3.0 percent). New outbreaks occurred in Merca, Baidoa, Awdegley, Bardera and Wanle Weyne. The outbreak in Mogadishu tripled during the month of April. A large outbreak also occurred in the Wanle Weyne district outside of Mogadishu; WHO, UNICEF and the Somali Red Crescent / ICRC worked together to control the situation. WHO expects that the case number has reached its peak in Mogadishu, but reports that it is still too early to make definite conclusions. No new cases were reported from the Northwest and Northeast regions of the country. An increase in the number of cases of diarrhea was reported from Galcayo in the Mudug region, however. WHO is calling on all partners to maintain their intensified alert even in areas not yet affected by the 1997 epidemic.

WHO recently commissioned a study to be undertaken by specialists on the exact ways that cholera is transmitted in Somalia. Data has been taken throughout March and April and preliminary findings indicate that household water, as opposed to other water sources such as wells and reservoirs, is more often contaminated. The chlorination of public water sources and accompanying social mobilization campaign to prevent the spread continues country-wide through UNICEF and the NGO community.


Mission to Kenya-Somali border Towns Following Reports of Population Movements

In mid-April, UNHCR led a joint UN Agency - NGO mission to the Kenya-Somali border towns of Liboi, Dobley, and Mandera as well as to the refugee camp in Dadaab. An estimated 5,500 displaced persons have recently come to Dadaab seeking refugee status from mainly the Baidoa and Buale areas of Somalia. UNHCR will provide transport from Dadaab back to Somalia as most of the persons did not qualify as refugees, most citing drought as reason for moving. Food distributions will take place to the IDPs prior to their departure as well as upon their arrival in Somalia. WFP will implement food-for-work programmes to assist farmers during the planting season through the NGOs American Refugee Committee (ARC), CARE, and World Vision. In Mandera, agencies have received reports of at least a further 15,000 Somalis in the Ethiopian towns of Dolow and Suftu who fled inter-clan fighting in the Bay and Bakool areas. MSF-Spain, currently based in Mandera, is requesting the Ethiopian government for permission to establish feeding centres and other emergency measures to assist this population. UNHCR will work with its office in Addis Ababa to ensure assistance to these groups.

ICRC Provides Assistance to Displaced Families

In March, the ICRC assisted a number of IDP camps in southern Somalia. On 22 March, resettlement kits and blankets were delivered to communities in Berdale district and the surrounding villages which had been recently destroyed by inter-clan fighting. Jerry cans and other supplies arrived from Mogadishu to be distributed in Burhakaba and surrounding villages, where populations are reported vulnerable due to conflict.

Movement of Somali Refugees within Kenya

The process to close Somali refugee camps in the coastal towns of Kenya and move them to inland camps in the Northeastern region of Kenya continues. On 19 March, twenty-three Somali refugees were injured in fighting between refugees of Somali and Bantu origin in the closing-down of Swaleh Nguru cam in Mombasa. Several shelters were set ablaze in the fighting, and UNHCR subsequently met with police and with refugee elders to assist in defusing the situation. As of mid-April, UNHCR reports that nine relocation convoys have moved a total of 4,539 refugees from Swaleh Nguru camp on the Kenya coast to Dadaab and Kakuma camps in the Northeast region of Kenya.

Update on Repatriation in the Northwest

Over the past year, the Hargeisa administration has succeeded in maintaining a relatively safe environment in most parts of the region making it possible for UNHCR, FAO, UNDP / HABITAT, and UNDP / UNOPS to make a number of preparatory arrangements for groups who wish to return from Ethiopia. To date, UNHCR has repatriated 2,500 Somali refugees from this area and hopes to return a further 7,500 in 1997. UNHCR and FAO have recently completed a joint assessment and have formulated seven quick impact projects for a total amount of USD 851,000. UNDP, through UNOPS and HABITAT, has been implementing projects targeting returnee farmers and urban planning for resettlement neighborhoods. Further funding is urgently needed to capitalize on these accomplishments and the peaceful environment so that these returnees may contribute to the ongoing development and economic growth of the Northwest regions. A total of USD 2,500,000 has been requested under the UN Joint Reintegration Programme for this return programme, of which no funds have been received to date.


UN Joint Assessment Mission: Hiraan Region

In January 1997, the UNCT tasked a UN Joint Assessment Team with providing up-to-date situation analyses of regions which have developed beyond a protracted state of crisis, referred to as zones of transition under the UN Joint Appeal. A first pilot UN Joint Assessment Mission was undertaken in the Hiraan region from 24 February - 3 March. The mission findings conclude that there is scope for projects and programmes which could have substantial impact in agriculture and food security; womens activities; education; health; water and sanitation; and governance. In 1990, Hiraan was proceeding toward limited recovery following the civil war, but the region suffered extensively due to the invasion of the late Gen. Aidids forces between July 1994 and April 1995. The population suffered systematic looting, destruction and burning of assets, including food stores, seed stock, standing crops, irrigation canals, water pumps and agricultural tools of towns and villages. Following Aidids retreat from the area in late 1995, the security situation has improved, with only the areas near the Ethiopian border, areas of Mataban and Jalalaqsi districts requiring caution when traveling. The full report including recommendations for projects in all sectors is available through Mr. Doug Higgins at UNDOS.

In other Hiraan region news, ICRC reported that a joint venture between their office and local communities to rehabilitate eleven irrigation systems will be completed in May, benefiting approximately 3,000 vulnerable farming families. The systems, which are fed by the Shabelle river, will irrigate over 1,600 hectares of farmland in the Belet Weyne and Jalalaqsi districts.

Food for Work Programmes in the Northeast and Northwest Regions

In addition to food allocated through local drought task forces to the most vulnerable groups, WFP has also recently approved a number of longer-term food-for-work projects in collaboration with other UN Agencies and NGOs in the Northeast and Northwest regions. In April, WFP Bossaso approved projects for school construction, wells/ berkhads rehabilitation, womens net making, salt processing and training and demobilisation for 200 ex-militiamen. WFP Hargeisa has recently submitted estimates for its monthly food distributions, in which approximately 30 percent will be utilized in relief operations, particularly for allotments to newly arriving returnees, and the remaining 70 percent will be utilized in agriculture, rehabilitation, health, and education projects as well as support to womens and income generation projects. In April, WFP approved two road rehabilitation projects benefiting a total of 180 workers.

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