ETHIOPIA: New camp for fleeing Somalis
A woman prepares to return home after receiving food rations in southern Somalia’s Bakool province (file photo): Thousands of central and southern Somali assylum seekers have arrived in the Somali region of Ethiopia
ADDIS ABABA, 11 February 2009 (IRIN) - A camp to accommodate thousands of Somalis fleeing violence in their country is to be set up in south-eastern Ethiopia, the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) said.
An estimated 10,000 asylum-seekers have arrived at the border town of Dolo Ado, in the Somali Region of Ethiopia, since the beginning of the year, according to Save the Children and UNHCR.
The Somalis, mostly women and children, are fleeing instability following the withdrawal of Ethiopian troops from their country. Their numbers are expected to reach 25,000 over the next few weeks.
"We need the support of all concerned to act quickly and effectively in order to mitigate further suffering of the asylum-seekers," said Cosmas Chanda, UNHCR deputy representative in Ethiopia.
About 150 Somalis were crossing the border each day. Preliminary registrations had shown a number of cases needing special attention, including pregnant women, the elderly and people with disabilities.
"The Somali regional state gave us a new campsite 86km from the border," Kisut Gebre Egziabher, UNHCR spokesperson in Ethiopia, said on 10 February. "When we establish a camp, it should not be far from the location of the asylum-seekers."
Some 33,000 Somali refugees live in three camps in Somali Region, namely Kebribeyah, Awbarre and Sheder, UNHCR noted. While these camps are near north-eastern Somalia, the recent influx was from Central and Southern Somalia.
Most of the recent arrivals were from Belet Hawa, Luuq, Dolo Gedo and Bardhere in Gedo region. Some had also come from Wajid and Hudur towns in Bakool region, the capital Mogadishu, and the parliamentary seat of Baidoa.
"They feared that the Al Shabab militias [which now control some key towns] will prosecute them for alleged support for the Ethiopian troops," Kisut said. "They told us they came here to save their lives."
Last week, UNHCR dispatched six trucks carrying relief items, including mosquito nets, blankets, jerry cans, kitchen utensils, plastic sheets and mats from Addis Ababa to Dolo Ado.
The UN World Food Programme also sent food rations, enough to last 10,000 asylum-seekers two weeks, and was airlifting high-nutrition biscuits from its emergency stock in Tanzania.
The World Health Organization, meanwhile, was pre-positioning vaccines, medicines and other medical supplies while the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) was evaluating the water situation and eventually the primary education sector.