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UNHCR launches US$92 million appeal to assist Somali refugees in Kenya

News Stories, 19 December 2008

© UNHCR/H.Caux
Recently arrived refugees in Dadaab, where conditions have become cramped. UNHCR plans to build two new camps to ease the congestion.

GENEVA, December 19 (UNHCR) The UN refugee agency on Friday launched an appeal for US$92 million to ease the plight of nearly 250,000 Somalis in one of the world's oldest, largest and most congested refugee sites amid growing fears of even more arrivals as the situation in Somalia deteriorates.

The emergency assistance to Somali refugees in Dadaab, Kenya, focuses on relieving dramatic overcrowding in three adjacent camps that are now three times their initial capacity, with thousands more people continuing to arrive each month. The 17-year-old Dadaab camp complex is located in remote north-eastern Kenya, near the Somali border.

With the continuing conflict in their homeland showing no sign of abating, more than 60,000 Somalis have crossed into Kenya so far in 2008. Most come from Mogadishu and the Lower Juba regions of Kismayo, Jamame and Afmadow. The long-running crisis is further compounded by severe drought conditions, food insecurity and periodic heavy flooding in the Horn of Africa.

High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres spent two days in Dadaab in June, when he pledged to camp residents that UNHCR would develop a comprehensive plan to address the twin problems of congestion in the camp and the legitimate socio-economic concerns of the host community.

"We must take action now to improve the general living conditions among a refugee population which has already suffered far too much," Guterres said on Friday. "We also need to be prepared for the possibility of continued instability in Somalia and the outflows associated with that."

The programme will include the construction of two new camps to ease the congestion in the three existing Dadaab sites as well as meet the needs of new arrivals from Somalia. UNHCR and the government of Kenya are actively searching for additional land to construct the new camps, which would each shelter up to 60,000 people.

The US$92 million will also be used to improve the present poor living conditions of the refugees in the overcrowded camps. The camps are also in need of new, improved sanitation systems and better refugee housing. Many residents still live in flimsy huts.

Additional funds are also needed for protection and legal assistance; complementary and supplementary feeding; and provision of basic household supplies. Other activities include ensuring access to basic services through community-based projects for the Kenyan host community, which has been extremely generous over the years.

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Crossing the Gulf of Aden

Every year thousands of people in the Horn of Africa - mainly Somalis and Ethiopians - leave their homes out of fear or pure despair, in search of safety or a better life. They make their way over dangerous Somali roads to Bossaso in the northern semi-autonomous region of Puntland.

In this lawless area, smuggler networks have free reign and innocent and desperate civilians pay up to US$150 to make the perilous trip across the Gulf of Aden.

Some stay weeks on end in safe houses or temporary homes in Bossaso before they can depart. A sudden call and a departure in the middle of the night, crammed in small unstable boats. At sea, anything can happen to them - they are at the whim of smugglers. Some people get beaten, stabbed, killed and thrown overboard. Others drown before arriving on the beaches of Yemen, which have become the burial ground for hundreds who many of those who died en route.

Crossing the Gulf of Aden

Somalia/Ethiopia

In February 2005, one of the last groups of Somalilander refugees to leave Aisha refugee camp in eastern Ethiopia boarded a UNHCR convoy and headed home to Harrirad in North-west Somalia - the self-declared independent state of Somaliland. Two years ago Harrirad was a tiny, sleepy village with only 67 buildings, but today more than 1,000 people live there, nearly all of whom are former refugees rebuilding their lives.

As the refugees flow back into Somalia, UNHCR plans to close Aisha camp by the middle of the year. The few remaining refugees in Aisha - who come from southern Somalia - will most likely be moved to the last eastern camp, Kebribeyah, already home to more than 10,000 refugees who cannot go home to Mogadishu and other areas in southern Somalia because of continuing lawlessness there. So far refugees have been returning to only two areas of the country - Somaliland and Puntland in the north-east.

Somalia/Ethiopia

Flood Airdrop in Kenya

Over the weekend, UNHCR with the help of the US military began an emergency airdrop of some 200 tonnes of relief supplies for thousands of refugees badly hit by massive flooding in the Dadaab refugee camps in northern Kenya.

In a spectacular sight, 16 tonnes of plastic sheeting, mosquito nets, tents and blankets, were dropped on each run from the C-130 transport plane onto a site cleared of animals and people. Refugees loaded the supplies on trucks to take to the camps.

Dadaab, a three-camp complex hosting some 160,000 refugees, mainly from Somalia, has been cut off from the world for a month by heavy rains that washed away the road connecting the remote camps to the Kenyan capital, Nairobi. Air transport is the only way to get supplies into the camps.

UNHCR has moved 7,000 refugees from Ifo camp, worst affected by the flooding, to Hagadera camp, some 20 km away. A further 7,000 refugees have been moved to higher ground at a new site, called Ifo 2.

Posted in December 2006

Flood Airdrop in Kenya

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