On the Run Again: Somali Refugees Return Home from Yemen

More than 28,000 people – nearly half of them children – have arrived in Somalia fleeing the conflict in Yemen. Most are Somalis returning to their homeland.  

Bossaso, Puntland - In recent months, thousands of Somali returnees and some Yemenis are arriving in Puntland, Somalia, fleeing the conflict in Yemen.

World Food Programme (WFP) Communications Officer Laila Ali visited the Bossaso Transit Centre, where WFP is providing humanitarian assistance to those in need, including cooked meals for new arrivals, as well as nutrition support for pregnant women, breastfeeding mothers and small children to prevent them from becoming malnourished. 

Photo:WFP/Karel Prinsloo

The exodus from Yemen

Since the start of the conflict in March, more than 100,000 people have fled from Yemen. Among these refugees, there have been over 28,000 Somalis returning to their homeland on overcrowded boats across the Gulf of Aden. The latest map from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) illustrates population movement, including returnees to Somalia.

Enlarge map by clicking on it

The diaspora of Somali refugees

This UNHCR map depicts Somali refugees displaced in the Horn of Africa and Yemen. In recent weeks Somalis in Yemen are returning to Somalia in order to escape the conflict.

View map in detail by clicking on it

Journey from a world fallen apart

The vast majority of returnees have landed in the port of Bossaso in Puntland. Upon arrival, the returnees are temporarily housed at a transit centre, which used to be a WFP warehouse. The centre is now filled with mattresses and the few items that families valued enough to bring with them on the perilous journey across the Gulf of Aden.

Photo:WFP/Laila Ali

Some of the children I saw were visibly injured and morose; they seemed overwhelmed and vulnerable, their eyes imploring and demanding compassion.

Photo:WFP/Laila Ali

"Tell the world to help us"
Others embodied the word resilience, organising themselves into play groups, determined to hold onto to a childhood that is theirs by right even if their world has fallen apart.

What the children silently communicated, their desperate parents put into words: “Tell the world to help us.”

Photo:WFP/Laila Ali

The people returning from Yemen are arriving in vulnerable communities in Somalia, which were already facing dire humanitarian needs – a burden that is now growing, and would be hard for them to bear without assistance.

With the support of its partners and in close coordination with the Puntland government, WFP is responding to the call of communities, and providing desperately needed assistance to vulnerable people arriving in Somalia. 

Photo:WFP/Laila Ali

Ready to assist returnees neighbouring the Yemen conflict

At the moment, the conflict in Yemen shows no signs of abating. While it is difficult to tell how the situation will evolve, WFP is ready to respond in Somalia if people continue to make the dangerous journey across the Gulf of Aden in the coming months. 

WFP is closely monitoring the situation and stands ready to assist if needs increase and resources are available. 

Photo:WFP/Laila Ali

To read more about the situation in Yemen visit our emergency page

To learn more about WFP's operations in Somalia visit our country page