More than 60,000 Somalis, mainly women and children, have fled to Ethiopia’s Somali region in the past few weeks to escape violent clashes and insecurity in the city of Laascaanood (Laas Caanood), in Somalia’s Sool region, the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) reports. More than half of them arrived earlier this week, UNHCR spokesperson Olga Sarrado Mur said Friday at a news conference in Geneva.
“Exhausted and traumatized, they have arrived with very little, only taking what they could carry“, Olga Sarrado Mur said. Women told staff from UNHCR that they had to sell their belongings to pay for transportation to reach safety. “Many of them have lost loved ones in the clashes or have been separated during flight”, she added.
According to the UN Refugee Agency, families have temporarily settled across more than 13 locations in the towns of Bookh, Galhamur and Danot Woredasiin in the Doolo zone in Ethiopia’s Somali region. In an extremely remote area with a limited humanitarian presence, local communities in Doolo zone have generously welcomed the refugees, sharing whatever resources they have. But these are quickly depleting as an average of 1,000 people continue to cross into Ethiopia each day.
UNHCR said the refugees are hosted in some of the areas in the country worst hit by the drought and the impact of climate change, following five consecutive failed rainy seasons, where resources are already overstretched.
“With limited options, many newly-arrived refugee families have resorted to sheltering in schools and other public buildings while others have no choice but to sleep outside. Many urgently need food and nutritional support, water and sanitation facilities, as well as specialized support for people with specific needs”, the UNHCR spokesperson said.
In total, more than 245,000 Somalis have been forced to abandon their homes so far due to insecurity in Somalia's Sool region.
According to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), more than 185,000 people have been displaced inside Somalia from Laascaanood town and its surrounding areas since fighting began early February. An estimated 89 per cent of the internally displaced persons (IDPs) are women and children. Local authorities say displaced families have settled in 66 sites within Somaliland while others have crossed into the Puntland region in northern Somalia and other villages bordering Ethiopia.
In a flash report Thursday, OCHA said heavy fighting continues to be reported in Laascaanood in the disputed Sool Region. As of 11 February, 57 deaths and 401 people injured had been recorded at local hospitals treating the injured in Laascaanood town.
The current fighting that began on 6 February was reportedly triggered after Dhulbahante clan elders issued a declaration stating that they are no longer part of Somaliland and that Sool, Sanaag and Cayn regions are now governed by the Federal Government of Somalia. Both Somaliland and Puntland claim Sool, Sanaag, and Cayn (Buuhoodle).
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees is a United Nations agency mandated to assist and protect refugees, displaced persons and stateless people. The organization is known by its short name UN Refugee Agency. UNHCR was established by the United Nations General Assembly on December 14, 1950, to provide assistance to refugees from World War II. On January 1, 1951, the UNHCR began its work. Each year, the UN Refugee Agency helps millions of refugees and displaced persons worldwide. UNHCR is headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland, and has offices in 134 countries.
The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) coordinates the work of non-governmental organizations and other national and international actors in humanitarian emergencies. It is the principal international player on humanitarian assistance issues.
Full text: Tens of thousands arrive in Ethiopia, fleeing recent clashes in Somalia, UNHCR press release, published February 17, 2023
Full text: Somalia: Flash Update No. 2 Fighting in Laas Caanood, Sool Region, OCHA report,
published February 16, 2023