19 October 2012

Ethiopia: UN to Open New Camp in Ethiopia As Number of Somali Refugees Continues to Grow

Photo: Kate Holt/IRIN
Refugee camp (file photo).

The United Nations refugee agency today announced it will open a new camp in Ethiopia as the number of Somalis fleeing conflict and insecurity in their country continues to grow.

"With people still arriving at Dollo Ado, the Ethiopian Government has authorized the opening of a sixth site and land for this has been designated between the town of Kole and Kobe camp, some 54 kilometres north of Dollo Ado town," a spokesperson for the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), Andrej Mahecic, told reporters in Geneva.

Situated in the southeast of Ethiopia, Dollo Ado is the second largest refugee complex in the world after Dadaab, located in Kenya. Last week, according to UNHCR, the population at Dollo Ado passed the 170,000 mark, with new arrivals citing fear of harassment and forced recruitment by armed groups which control large rural areas of Somalia.

Somalia has been affected by conflict for more than two decades, which has forced more than two million people to seek safety and shelter either elsewhere, inside the country or beyond its borders. This was exacerbated by last year's drought and ensuing famine, which uprooted an additional half million people.

Overall, the number of Somali refugees in neighbouring countries numbers more than a million. Half of these are in Kenya, while Ethiopia now hosts 214,000 displaced persons, in five camps at Dollo Ado as well as several hundred kilometres to the north at the eastern Ethiopian city of Jijiga.

"The cost of opening the new camp, setting up basic services and infrastructure including medical, education and warehousing facilities is more than $5 million," Mr. Mahecic said. "We are seeking support from donors and partners, including resources for non-governmental organization partners who would be working in the camp."

For the initial phase, UNHCR urgently needs $1.5 million for site preparation, land demarcation and the setting up of basic infrastructure, Mr. Mahecic added, noting that the rocky terrain in the Dollo Ado area poses additional challenges.

So far this year, UNHCR has received $44 million of the more than $112 million sought for its activities associated with the refugees.

"Refugees typically arrive with a few belongings only. Their most urgent needs are emergency shelters, food and essential aid items," Mr. Mahecic said. "To address these needs, we dispatched a convoy of nine trucks from Kenya last week, carrying 10,000 plastic sheets, 500 plastic rolls, 20,000 blankets, 15,000 sleeping mats, 15,000 mosquito nets, and 10,000 collapsible jerry cans."

In addition, the spokesperson stated that a long-awaited 1,600 metre all-weather airstrip opened in Dollo Ado two weeks ago, significantly upgrading access for humanitarian staff and transportation of cargo. Funded by the United States Government, the airstrip was constructed by a field-engineering team from the UN World Food Programme (WFP), which worked closely with the Ethiopian civil aviation and road authorities.

"This is an important and major improvement for humanitarian organizations working in Dollo Ado as adverse weather conditions often rendered the old airstrip unusable," Mr. Mahecic added. "The only other access involved a three day trip on poor roads, severely delaying emergency interventions and urgent medical evacuations."

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