A young Somali refugee in Dadaab, Kenya. (c)UNHCR
The UN Refugee Agency says 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 to escape insecurity, including 146,000 so far this year. But UNHCR spokesman Adrian Edwards said that in recent weeks "we have seen an increase in IDPs [internally displaced people] and refugees also citing difficulty in providing for themselves."
In the past seven weeks, UNHCR has registered some 6,000 Somalis who have cited such difficulties arising from meager seasonal rains and resulting food insecurity. The majority are from Somalia's Bay, Lower Juba and Bakool regions.
For 2012 to date, UNHCR has recorded 13,000 such displacements. However, in May alone, the refugee agency registered 4,400.
In Lower Juba region, people are moving to the towns of Diif, Qoqani, Tabta and Dobley in search of water and pasture. They have settled in areas around Dobley and Diif, close to the border. Many are now integrated with host communities, while others have settled on the outskirts of the towns. There are similar displacements in and around the Dollow, Gedo region bordering Ethiopia.
In Ethiopia, as of this week, there are more than 157,000 Somali refugees in the five camps and transit center at Dollo Ado. 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 flight, including 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 neighbors in Somalia intend to follow," Edwards said. UNHCR and Ethiopian authorities have agreed to extend the capacity of the Buramino camp to above 25,000, while finalizing site selection for a sixth camp.
There are also reports that the regular commercial traffic carrying food and other commodities from the Somali port town of Kismayo to Afmadow, Lower Juba Region and Dobley 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," Edwards said.