More than 60,000 Somali refugees have fled to Ethiopia following an increase in fighting in the Sool region town of Las Anod, where tensions between locals and the governing Somaliland authorities have been building for weeks.
According to the UN, the refugees arrived in an area of Ethiopia that had been severely impacted by drought after five consecutive failed rains, and that many people were sleeping in the open or seeking shelter in schools and other public buildings.
“Exhausted and traumatised, they have arrived with very little, only taking what they could carry. Women told staff from UNHCR that they had 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.” said Olga Sarrado Mur, spokesperson for the United Nations refugee agency, UNHCR.
The UN notes that, 89% of the 185,000 internally displaced people (IDPs) from Las Anod and surrounding areas were women and children who lacked adequate shelter. According to the Red Crescent, some people had previously been displaced from areas experiencing severe drought as a result of failed rains.
According to the UN, at least 82 people have been killed in fighting that has included shelling of civilian areas, as well as damage to health facilities and electricity and water supplies.
According to UNICEF, the damage had left displaced Somalis with limited access to water and sanitation, with 80% having to defecate in the open.
Tensions have risen since the death of a local opposition leader, Abdifatah Abdullahi Abdi, in late December, which sparked protests. Somaliland forces were accused of firing on protesters, killing 20, prompting the withdrawal of Somaliland forces from Las Anod in January.
Fighting erupted earlier this month after Dhulbahante elders declared that the Sool region was no longer a part of Somaliland and that they would form a separate state.
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