Geneva — Continuing conflict and poor seasonal rains are still forcing Somali people to flee their country since they were driven from their homes by conflict, human rights abuses and the worst drought in decades last June, said a spokesman with the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) on Tuesday.
Andrej Mahecic said in the first four months of 2012 some 20,000 Somalis sought refuge in neighboring Kenya, Ethiopia, Djibouti and Yemen.
However, the number dropped to some extent from that of last year, as an average of 40,000 people fled their homeland each month between June and September of 2011.
Throughout the past year the priority and toughest challenge for UNHCR and its partners has been to reduce the unprecedented mortality and malnutrition rates among Somali arrivals in neighboring countries.
Mortality rates began to drop from record highs - with an estimated death toll of 17 deaths per 10,000 people every day - in September 2011 in the Dadaab refugee camps in Kenya and Dollo Ado camps in Ethiopia, but it took another six months before they fell below the levels usually seen in an emergency, less than 1 per 10,000 per day, according to Mahecic.
The malnutrition rates have also dropped among Somali refugees.
Mahecic said pressure is huge on the host communities as the Somali crisis continues to affect the entire region and called for continued international support.
UNHCR statistics showed that more than 980,000 Somalis currently live as refugees in neighboring Kenya, Ethiopia, Yemen and Djibouti, and some 300,000 people fled Somalia last year alone.