Date: 29 Oct 2010
UNHCR is alarmed by a fast deteriorating humanitarian situation at the northern part of the Kenya-Somali border. This week we have seen hundreds of Somalis continuing to flee clashes between Al-Shabaab and Ahlu Sunna Wal Jamaa, a militia group allied to the transitional Somali Government, in the Somali border town of Beled Hawo.
As of yesterday, more than 7,100 refugees were squatting at the Border Point One site, some 500 meters from the Kenya Somali border. These are mostly women, children and the elderly. Their security and health conditions are deteriorating by the hour. Some have been camping out in the open at Border Point One since 17 October when the fighting broke out.
Yesterday, one of the trucks belonging to a partner agency, Islamic Relief Worldwide, was shot at while delivering supplies to refugees at Border Point One, resulting in humanitarian activities having to be suspended. This morning we resumed distribution of relief supplies after the Kenyan authorities provided security at the site. We are also carrying out rapid health screening so that the sick can get some immediate treatment. Shelter remains a big concern as it has been raining for days in the region. Yesterday, we deployed more staff to Mandera.
Should clashes resume in Beled Hawo, our concern is that many lives will be at risk with so many refugees in such a dangerous place. UNHCR urges the Kenyan authorities to allow relocation of these people as soon as possible. Earlier in the week, together with the Kenyan authorities we have identified a suitable site called Garbakole some 11 kilometers from the border. However, we are still waiting for the green light from the central and local authorities to allow us access the site.
Meanwhile, according to sketchy reports from Somalia the conditions of those displaced by the latest escalation of violence are dire. They are in desperate situation as no humanitarian agency has been able to access them yet.
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.