Dadaab camps under severe strain as Somalis continue to flee to Kenya

News Stories, 27 March 2009

© UNHCR/E.Hockstein
Somali refugees wait to get water in Ifo camp. Long lines and difficulty getting ample water is a growing problem in Dadaab due to the growing numbers of Somalis fleeing to Kenya.

DADAAB, Kenya, March 27 (UNHCR) The election of a new Somali president earlier this year has failed to stem the flow of Somalis seeking refuge in the overcrowded Dadaab refugee camps in north-east Kenya.

Since the beginning of the year, more than 20,000 new arrivals have been registered in the three camps that make up the Dadaab complex Hagadera, Ifo and Dagahaley. Many of the new arrivals UNHCR has interviewed cite increased insecurity, especially in the middle and lower Juba regions, coupled with drought and food shortages as the main reasons for fleeing to Kenya.

Many also express pessimism about the return of peace to Somalia in the near term. Despite the election in January of a moderate Islamist, Sheik Sharif Sheik Ahmed, as Somali president, many parts of Somalia are still insecure that's why the election was held among Somali lawmakers in Djibouti.

UNHCR continues to receive and register new arrivals despite the fact that the capacity of the camps is completely overstretched. Camps designed almost two decades ago to accommodate a total of 90,000 people are currently home to more than 261,000 people, making the Dadaab complex one of the world's oldest, biggest and most congested refugee sites.

The UN refugee agency has been negotiating with the government of Kenya to provide land for the construction of new camps, but this is yet to be finalized.

"We are therefore receiving and accommodating these refugees with a lot of difficulty," said a UNHCR spokesman, adding: "It is crucial for the government to provide us with land as soon as possible, where we can build other camps and thus decongest the existing camps and prepare for more people if the current arrival trend continues."

Over half the new arrivals are women and children and many are exhausted after having travelled long distances, often using unofficial routes to avoid detection when crossing the border. Some come from as far away as Mogadishu by road and foot, an 800-kilometre journey that can take up to 16 days.

When they arrive, they must seek out family, relatives or clan members in Ifo and Dagahaley camps as UNHCR has no more land on which to give them plots to live, This results in up to 30 people living on a 12 by 13-metre plot of land.

"We fear that the situation may further deteriorate once the rainy season begins due to the shelter constraints. The next rainy season is expected in early April," the spokesman said.

The current conflict in Somalia has led to thousands of deaths and massive displacements. The Dadaab refugee camps were established in 1991 and 1992, following the collapse of the government of Siad Barre in Somalia.

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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

New Arrivals in Yemen

During one six-day period at the end of March, more than 1,100 Somalis and Ethiopians arrived on the shores of Yemen after crossing the Gulf of Aden on smuggler's boats from Bosaso, Somalia. At least 28 people died during these recent voyages – from asphyxiation, beating or drowning – and many were badly injured by the smugglers. Others suffered skin problems as a result of prolonged contact with sea water, human waste, diesel oil and other chemicals.

During a recent visit to Yemen, UNHCR Assistant High Commissioner for Protection Erika Feller pledged to further raise the profile of the situation, to appeal for additional funding and international action to help Yemen, and to develop projects that will improve the living conditions and self sufficiency of the refugees in Yemen.

Since January 2006, Yemen has received nearly 30,000 people from Somalia, Ethiopia and other places, while more than 500 people have died during the sea crossing and at least 300 remain missing. UNHCR provides assistance, care and housing to more than 100,000 refugees already in Yemen.

New Arrivals in Yemen

The Gulf of Aden: Sharp Rise in Crossings and Deaths

The number of people arriving on the coast of Yemen after being smuggled across the treacherous Gulf of Aden from the Horn of Africa has more than doubled this year. So far this year, more than 18,000 people have arrived in Yemen across the Gulf of Aden, and nearly 400 have died attempting the journey.

This surge in arrivals is largely due to the continuing conflict in Somalia and the use of new smuggling routes from Somalia to Yemen and across the Red Sea from Djibouti. Many of the new arrivals also tell of crop losses due to drought, which forced them to leave home. This photo set focuses on those people leaving from Djibouti.

UNHCR has been calling for increased action to save lives in the Gulf of Aden and other waters. We have stepped up our work in Yemen under a US$17 million operation that includes extra staff, provision of additional shelter and assistance, and protection for refugees and internally displaced people.

Posted on 20 May 2008

The Gulf of Aden: Sharp Rise in Crossings and Deaths

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