Mogadishu, 20 June– On the occasion of World Refugee Day, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Somalia pays tribute to the millions of people forcibly displaced all over the world.
World Refugee Day is marked on 20 June each year to highlight the courage and resilience of millions of people forced to flee war, conflict and persecution. The day is also an opportunity to express gratitude to governments and host populations that offer asylum, support and protection to refugees.
The theme for 2019 is “inclusion; inclusion of refugees, IDPs and stateless people”. This year, UNHCR is also rallying people around the world to honour the resilience and determination of displaced people in a global movement dubbed, “Step With Refugees”. The campaign invites people to step in solidarity with refugees by either walking, running, dancing, swimming or cycling. Regional organizations are also taking note of the crisis. The African Union declared 2019 as the year of Refugees, Returnees and Internally Displaced People (IDPs).
Globally, the displacement crisis in recent years has been unprecedented. At least one person is forcibly uprooted from their homes around the world every two seconds. In total, 70.8 million have been forced to flee their homes globally – among them 25.9 million refugees.
“We are now witnessing the highest levels of displacement on record; and host countries need to ensure the active inclusion of refugees and other displaced families in their countries’ development agenda. Refugees and others in similar situations bring with them great skills and can make meaningful contributions in their communities. Giving them equal opportunities to use their skills also promotes self-reliance and empowerment.” said Takeshi Moriyama, UNHCR Acting Representative.
Somalia is at the epicentre of the refugee and displacement crisis. The country remains one of the top five refugee producing countries in the world with most of its nationals seeking asylum in neighbouring Ethiopia, Kenya and Yemen. More than 2.6 people are also internally displaced mainly due to conflict, drought, floods and evictions. The majority of the internally displaced are located in Banadir, Bay, Sool, and Gedo and Bari regions.
Despite its own internal challenges, Somalia is generously hosting over 34,000 refugees and asylum seekers largely from Ethiopia and Yemen. They mainly live in Woqooyi Galbeed, Bari and Banadir regions. Somali nationals have also been returning home spontaneously from countries of asylum as well as through the UNHCR supported Voluntary Repatriation (Volrep) and the Assisted Spontaneous Return (ASR) Programs. UNHCR has received more than 126,000 returnees from 12 countries including Kenya, Yemen, Djibouti, Libya, Sudan, Eritrea, Tunisia, Angola, Gambia, Pakistan and Cambodia.
An estimated 5.4 million people are likely to be food insecure by September.
GENEVA, Switzerland, June 5, 2019 -This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson Babar Baloch – to whom quoted text may be attributed – at today’s press briefing at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.
Ahead of World Environment Day tomorrow, UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, is calling for urgent additional support to help people affected and displaced by drought in Somalia.
Below average rains during the “Gu” (April-June 2019) and “Deyr” (October – December 2018) rainy seasons have caused worsening drought in many parts of the country. An estimated 5.4 million people are likely to be food insecure by September.
Some 2.2 million of these will be in severe conditions needing immediate emergency assistance unless aid is urgently scaled up.
The drought has also forced more than 49,000 people to flee their homes since the beginning of the year as they search for food, water, aid and work mostly in urban areas. People who are already displaced because of conflict and violence are also affected by the drought, at times disproportionally.
More than 7,000 people were displaced last month alone.
Three main regions of Somalia – South Central, Puntland and Somaliland – have been affected, despite marginal to average rains and flash flooding in some regions. The worst affected areas include the Sanaag, Sool, Awdal, Bari, Nugaal, Mudug, Galgadud, Hiran regions of the country.
The latest drought comes just as the country was starting to recover from a drought in 2016 to 2017 that led to the displacement inside Somalia of over a million people. Many remain in a protracted state of displacement.
UNHCR and humanitarian partners fear that severe climatic conditions combined with armed conflict and protracted displacement could push the country into a far bigger humanitarian emergency. Decades of climatic shocks and conflict have left more than 2.6 million people internally displaced.
To avert a humanitarian crisis, aid agencies launched a Drought Response Plan on 20 May, appealing for US$710.5 million to provide life-saving assistance to 4.5 million people affected by the drought. To date this is 20 per cent funded.
UNHCR has been working with partners and government agencies to assist those affected and displaced by the drought by providing emergency assistance in some of the most affected areas.
Worldwide, weather-related hazards, including storms, cyclones, floods, droughts, wildfires and landslides displaced 16.1 million people last year alone.
With climate change amplifying the frequency and intensity of sudden disasters, such as hurricanes, floods and tornados, and contributing to more gradual environmental phenomena, such as drought and rising sea levels, it is expected to drive even more displacement in the future.
UNHCR is calling for more international action to prevent climate-related disasters, scale up efforts to strengthen resilience and to protect people affected by climate change using all available legal frameworks.
The country had made significant progress on its economic and security sector reforms.
NEW YORK, United States of America, May 23, 2019 – Despite Somalia’s persistent security threats, recurrent political crises, capacity constraints and the difficulties in navigating political obstacles to its reform agenda, the Horn of Africa country remains on a “positive trajectory,” the UN Security Council was told on Wednesday.
Briefing the Council, Raisedon Zenenga ,the Deputy Head of the UN Assistance Mission in Somalia (UNSOM), reported that the country had made significant progress on its economic and security sector reforms. There had also been progress on the inclusive politics agenda as well, including the constitutional review process and preparations for the universal suffrage elections.
“The Federal Government has decided to apply the same rigorous approach to bring accountability and transparency to the security sector,” he said, noting, among other recent steps, the completion in March of biometric registration of all Somali National Army soldiers. All 16,000 soldiers registered were now receiving their salaries directly into their bank accounts.
“This has cut out middle men, reduced corruption, and ensures regular payment of salaries to military personnel. It also paves the way for rightsizing the National Army,” said Mr. Zenenga.
In parallel with these security sector reforms, the Federal Governments had launched military operations in Lower Shabelle region to advance the Transition Plan, degrade Al Shabaab in strongholds that are contiguous to Mogadishu and thereby halt the recent increase in Al Shabaab attacks in the capital.
Yet, Somalia continued to grapple with significant challenges, he said, explaining that the Federal Government’s reform efforts have encountered “inevitable” resistance. The economic reforms and security sector reforms entail dismantling a war economy that had flourished for decades.
“There are many vested interests which pose obstacles to increased accountability. Taking on these vested interests requires not only the determination, which the Federal Government has shown, but an inclusive approach of building relationships with all stakeholders to demonstrate that the reforms will yield benefits for the whole nation,” Mr. Zenenga stressed.
He also noted that the dialogue between Somalia and Somaliland, which also has implications for the completion of the constitutional review process, remains stalled. “We are, however, encouraged by ‘Somaliland’ President Muse Bihi’s remarks on 18 May expressing his readiness to promote peace with Puntland, including through the exchange of prisoners, and to cooperate with Somalia on issues related to security, trade and education.”
Recalling that UNSOM began the new year facing a security crisis as a result of the mortar attack on the UN compound on 1 January, and a political crisis as a result of the expulsion of the Special representative of the Secretary-General Nicholas Haysom on the same day, Mr. Zenenga said the two incidents had severely disrupted the Mission’s engagement with the Federal Government of Somalia and had also elevated the security risk level for UN personnel and left our staff deeply demoralized.
While the Mission had immediately prioritized the safety and security of its staff while concentrating political efforts on mending relations with the Federal Government, Mr. Zenenga underscored that a lasting solution to the continuing security threat “will come from denying Al Shabaab the space and opportunities to prepare and launch attacks.”
Despite such challenges, he said Somalia has “immense opportunities” to make further progress in the coming months. He set out the following prescription for making headway:
“The trajectory is upward, and we can all work together to energize Somalia’s population and their international partners towards reform and progress,” he concluded.
Also briefing the Council, UN Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator Ursula Mueller, said that ongoing armed conflict and violence, as well as recurrent climatic shocks continue to drive humanitarian needs in Somalia. Governance challenges and underdevelopment compound fragility and make it difficult for communities to develop robust coping mechanisms.
She said that the 2019 Humanitarian Response Plan, launched in January, identified 4.2 million Somalis – one third of the population – in need of life-saving assistance and protection. This shows a decline in needs from 2017, when famine was averted, raising hope that resilience activities led by the Government and development partners could make further gains.
“However, current humanitarian indicators across the country are showing a deterioration,” said Ms. Mueller, spotlighting three areas of concern: the severe drought conditions that have spread from northern and central areas throughout the country following two failed rainy seasons; the situation of internally displaced persons; and protection concerns.
“We must act now to avert a major humanitarian crisis. Humanitarian partners stand ready to deliver aid to those most in need and are capable of rapidly scaling up response, as was proven during famine prevention efforts in 2017,” said, but cautioned that significant funding shortfalls are constraining response and leading to a reduction in assistance in critical areas, including health, nutrition, food security, and water, sanitation and hygiene.
“I believe I was invited to brief you today to draw attention to the elevated risk of a major humanitarian crisis unfolding on the horizon. The immediate scale up of humanitarian response is essential to mitigate the impact of the drought and to prevent further breaking up of communities that continue to be fragile from the drought in 2017,” she said.
She encouraged the international community to urgently increase support for life-saving drought response efforts and to protect gains made in 2018, and added that it was here hope that immediate resources will be received to help us prevent a dramatic crisis from escalating.