Geneva — The UN refugee agency said today that growing numbers of displaced Somalis have been citing difficulty in providing for themselves as the main reason for fleeing their homes.
Most of the hundreds of thousands of displaced Somalis have fled their country to escape insecurity, including 146,000 so far this year, according to the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).
But, in recent weeks, "we have seen an increase in IDPs [internally displaced people] and refugees also citing difficulty in providing for themselves," a UNHCR spokesperson, Adrian Edwards, told reporters in Geneva.
While the effective delivery of international aid and a good harvest in some areas helped roll back last year's famine in Somalia, the humanitarian situation remains critical, with some 2.5 million people in the Horn of Africa country still in need of support.
In the past seven weeks, UNHCR has registered some 6,000 Somalis who have cited such difficulties, stemming from meagre seasonal rains and resulting food insecurity. The majority are from Somalia's Bay, Bakool and Lower Juba regions.
So far this year, UNHCR has recorded 13,000 such displacements. However, in May alone, the refugee agency registered 4,400.
In Ethiopia, as of this week, there are more than 157,000 Somali refugees in the five camps and transit centre at Dollo Ado in the country's south. Since the beginning of June, Somali refugees have continued to arrive in increasing numbers, with an average of almost 1,200 new arrivals every week.
These refugees consistently cite growing physical and food insecurity as their reasons for their flight, including the fear of forced recruitment by the Al-Shabaab militia group.
"Many new arrivals are coming with all of their belongings, including donkey carts and whatever livestock they still possess. Many say that other family members and neighbours in Somalia intend to follow," Mr. Edwards said.
UNHCR and Ethiopian authorities have agreed to extend the capacity of an existing location, the Buramino camp, to above 25,000, while finalizing site selection for a sixth camp.
Mr. Edwards noted that there are reports that regular commercial traffic carrying food and other commodities from the Somali port town of Kismayo to the towns of Afmadow and Dobley, in the interior, has been hampered by roadblocks since late last week.
"We note with concern that the continuation of such paralysis would have negative consequences for already vulnerable internally displaced people and host communities in the region and will likely increase local commodity prices," Mr. Edwards said at the press encounter.
After decades of warfare, Somalia has been undergoing a peace and national reconciliation process, with the country's Transitional Federal Institutions currently implementing a roadmap, devised in September last year, that spells out priority measures to be carried out before the current transitional governing arrangements end on 20 August.
Despite Government gains in regaining territory from the Al-Shabaab, such as the capital, Mogadishu, the militia group still controls large parts of the country, predominantly in its southern regions.