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UNHCR launches landmark aid airlift to Mogadishu


A UNHCR-chartered aircraft carrying emergency aid for thousands of displaced people landed on 8th August in the Somali capital of Mogadishu. It was the first UNHCR aid airlift to the city in five years.

The Ilyushin IL-62 cargo plane, carrying more than 31 tonnes of shelter material and some 2,500 emergency assistance packages, flew in from Dubai, where UNHCR has an aid stockpile. The special packs include plastic sheeting for shelter, sleeping mats and blankets, jerry cans and kitchen utensils. A second flight is scheduled to arrive on 11th August with the third to follow next week.

UNHCR has been shipping its relief items to Mogadishu by sea and over land but, due to the dramatic rise in the number of civilians uprooted because of famine and conflict in recent weeks, the agency decided to airlift supplies in order to save time.

An estimated 100,000 Somalis, driven by drought and famine, have fled to Mogadishu over the past two months in search of food, water, shelter and other assistance. There were already more than 370,000 internally displaced people in Mogadishu before the current wave of displacement.

In July alone, over 27,000 people fled to Mogadishu from the surrounding areas, mainly Bay, Bakool and Lower Shabelle, all heavily drought-affected areas. Almost as many people fled to Mogadishu last month as were displaced in the entire first quarter of this year (31,400). 

Given the current levels of malnutrition, mortality and humanitarian response, in combination with the likelihood of increasing prices and a harsh dry season, food security is expected to deteriorate over the coming months. Despite the long drought, some areas have recently been hit by torrential rains. UNHCR is distributing plastic sheeting across the city.

By the end of August, the UN refugee agency plans to deliver aid to up to 180,000 people in Mogadishu and south-central Somalia – areas affected by a mix of conflict, drought and famine. However, the delivery of this much-needed aid is being hampered by the volatile security situation.

Funding is urgently required in order that the UN Refugee Agency can continue to replenish emergency stocks inside Somalia, as they are being rapidly depleted.

UNHCR has appealed for US$145 million to provide protection and emergency assistance for the displaced in the Horn of Africa until the end of the year. It has either received or has firm projections for US$65 million. This amount covers less than 45 per cent of identified needs for Somalia, Kenya, Ethiopia and Djibouti.

The UN refugee agency is calling on donor countries, the private sector and individuals to urgently come forward and contribute towards closing the existing funding gap.