Security and Humanitarian Situations in East Africa Remain Tense

22/12/2011 - After a series of attacks, aid operations for Dadaab refugees were suspended. Reports of injuries during a security crackdown were reported by the IRIN. Hundreds of thousands of Somalis have fled to Kenya, including malnourished children.

With warnings of possible attacks by Somalia-based al-Shabab rebels over the Christmas season, authorities in East Africa have stepped up safety and security measures.
 
Kenyan officials have reportedly received a death threat to the Minister of State for Defense, Yusuf Haji, and Deputy Speaker, Farah Maalim. As such, the government has issued warnings for people to be careful when frequenting shopping centres, hotels, places of religious worship and any other public space during the holidays.

East Africa is experiencing its worst drought in sixty years. Last month, the militants interrupted the flow of relief by seizing the property of some humanitarian organizations and United Nations (UN) agencies, and banning their activities. Without aid, famine could re-emerge in drought-struck regions.
 
About 13 million men, women and children in Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya, and Somalia continue to need humanitarian assistance. Malnutrition rates remain at alarming levels with a quarter of a million children looking starvation in the face in the three famine-affected regions of Somalia.
 
One-and-a-half million people from Somalia have been displaced. Together, Kenya and Ethiopia are housing 840,000 refugees. Kenyan camps are sheltering 460,000 people in all.

Yesterday, the UN voiced its concern over attacks in Kenyan refugee camps, such as Dadaab in the northeast. On Monday, a landmine explosion at the camp killed one police officer an injured two others.
 
Aid distributions at Dadaab, located near the Somali border, have been temporarily suspended because of the attacks. A collective decision was made on the matter in order to protect aid beneficiaries. The lives of staff also need protection, as four police officers have ben injured in attacks since October. After the abduction of two of its aid workers, Medecins Sans Frontieres-Spain pulled out, too.
 
The IRIN reports that dozens of refugees have been injured in security operations aiming to weed out militants living as refugees.
 
“There’s no food, no water, even no people moving around apart from police with machine guns checking people,” Halima Yusuf Duale, a refugee at Ifo camp, told Reuters AlertNet yesterday.
 
“We are deeply concerned for the well-being and safety of Somali refugees in Dadaab, most of whom are women, children and the elderly,” said UN refugee agency chief Antonio Guterres in a statement yesterday.
 
Canada and the US and have both announced continued and new funding, respectively, for countries in the Horn of Africa region.