Fierce clashes in the Somali town of Beled Hawo on the Kenyan border have driven some 60,000 Somalis out of their homes over the past week. At least ten people have been killed in the clashes between Al-Shabaab and Ahlu Sunna Wal Jamaa, a militia group allied to the transitional Somali government.
Most of the displaced have fled to nearby villages and some have crossed into Kenya.
Of the estimated 40,000 displaced within Somalia, most are living under trees without shelter, water, food or any sanitation facilities. To make matters worse, it has been raining for days, increasing the risk of an outbreak of disease.
Of those who have fled across the border to the northern Kenyan town of Mandera, many are renting houses or being hosted by the local community while waiting for fighting to die down before making a decision on whether to return home.
We are particularly concerned about the worsening health and security conditions of thousands of others who have been camping out in the open at Border Point One since 17 October.
The number of Somali refugees at this makeshift site has been increasing by the day and stands at 5,000 as of this morning. The refugees are predominately women, children and the elderly. Our staff in Mandera says the health conditions at the site, which has no shelter or lavatories, are quickly deteriorating. The situation of the refugees is deplorable.
Border Point One is only 500 metres from the Kenya-Somalia border and within range of fire if clashes resume in Beled Hawo.
Tensions are rising amid reports that Al-Shabaab is regrouping to launch an attack to retake the town. We are urging the Kenyan authorities to speed up relocation of new arrivals so that people can be moved away from the border and into a reception centre where UNHCR and its partners can attend to their protection and assistance needs.
UNHCR has already started registering the new arrivals and is coordinating the humanitarian response. Kenyan authorities and aid agencies are working together with us to deliver basic services and provide food, water, shelter, medicine and sanitation to the newly displaced. Through local partners we are assessing the situation inside Somalia and coordinating a response, security permitting. There are some 1.46 million IDPs in Somalia. Some 614,000 Somalis live as refugees, mostly in neighbouring countries.
Source: United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR); Further information on this topic, please contact:In Nairobi, Kenya (Somalia Ops): Roberta Russo on mobile +254 73 3121 136, In Nairobi, Kenya: Yusuf Hassan on Mobile++254 737 564 033, In Geneva: Andrej Mahecic on mobile +41 79 200 7617