All the countries in the Horn of Africa are facing the effects of drought. The humanitarian impact of drought have been exacerbated by conflict and governance challenges in Somalia that affect not only Somalia but the neighbor countries of Ethiopia and Kenya, which host large Somali refugees populations.
Somalia is one of the most challenging and dangerous environments to work, largely due to insecurity, poor infrastructure and a widely scattered population. Even though recent analysis indicates that Somalia is no longer in famine, the study of FSNAU warns that 2.34 million people remain in crisis, unable to fully meet essential needs.
More than 955,000 Somalis live as refugee primarily in Kenya (520,000), Yemen (203,000) and Ethiopia (186,000). Another 1.3 million people are internally displaced people.
The refugees say they fled a combination of violence and drought in Somalia. Many are waiting until the last possible moment to flee, putting up with violence, crop failures and rising food prices until they can no longer survive where they were. Insecurity prevents aid from reaching them, forcing people to leave their sick and elderly behind and flee their homes to get help.
Many walk for weeks to reach aid in neighbouring countries. Some do not survive the harsh journey; the weakest children die along the way as their mothers watch helplessly. Those refugees who make it to Kenya or Ethiopia's camps arrive exhausted, dehydrated and severely malnourished. Child deaths are alarmingly high. The refugees urgently need medical aid and high-protein, high-energy food. They also need clean water, shelter and basic services in the camps.
The refugees are currently hosted in five camps, with a sixth to be opened to accommodate those currently in transit centers and decongest some of the existing camps. It is likely that more Somalis will arrive, especially as military action inside Somalia continues. The aim is to have robust livelihood interventions to reduce refugees' dependence on humanitarian aid.
UNHCR is increasingly concerned about insecurity in and around camps hosting refugees. The situation is particularly worrying, complex and tenuous in the Dadaab refugee camps in northern Kenya where the threat of improvised explosive devices, kidnappings, vehicle hijackings and banditry remains high. In addition to killings of police officers and kidnappings of aid workers, we are also seeing targeting of refugees.
UNHCR is maintaining and strengthening its emergency response capability throughout the region to ensure that arriving refugees receive robust protection and assistance. Priorities are ensuring adequate assistance in life-saving sectors such as water, shelter, health, sanitation and core relief items. Unfortunately, needs in many other important areas, such as livelihoods, support for host communities, alternative energy and education, have been impossible to fill or insufficiently addressed due to funding constraints.