UN High Commissioner for Refugees applauds Kenya's decision to open Ifo II camp

This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson Adrian Edwards to whom quoted text may be attributed at the press briefing, on 15 July 2011, at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

High Commissioner for Refugees, António Guterres, has welcomed yesterday's announcement by Prime Minister Raila Odinga that Kenya is to open the Ifo Two extension at the Dadaab refugee complex near the border with Somalia.

In separate letters to Kenya's president and its prime minister, Guterres applauded the decision and promised UNHCR's full support. UNHCR believes the opening of the extension is important for easing congestion at Dadaab, where some 1,300 Somali refugees have recently been arriving every day - fleeing conflict and drought in Somalia.

Including those living on the camp outskirts the number of Somali refugees in and around the Dadaab camp has swollen to 380,000. UNHCR plans to begin a massive airlift this weekend to bring tents and other aid supplies to the remote border region.

Dadaab, an already overcrowded complex of three separate camps spread over 50 sq kms of desert some 80 kms from the Somali border, is struggling to cope with an influx since the beginning of the year of some 60,000 new arrivals fleeing conflict, drought and famine in their homeland. An average of 1,300 hungry and exhausted Somalis are arriving daily at the complex, which was already holding more than four times the number of refugees it was designed for.

The UNHCR airlift, starting with a Boeing 747 flight carrying 100 tonnes of tents from our stockpiles in Kuwait, is expected to deliver its first load to Nairobi on Sunday. It will be followed by at least six subsequent flights over the next two weeks from UNHCRs stocks in Islamabad, Pakistan, carrying an additional 600 tonnes of tents in total. The aid supplies will replenish reduced or depleted stocks in Kenya.

As of Wednesday, the total refugee population in and around Dadaab was 380,000 including 59,000 new arrivals living on the outskirts of the three camps. The Dadaab complex was built in 1991 to hold 90,000 and was officially declared full in 2008. Today it is the largest, most congested and one the most remote refugee camps in the world. Up to five families are sharing plots designed for one family.

For further information on this topic, please contact:

  • In Nairobi, Kenya: Emmanuel Nyabera on mobile +254 733 99 59 75
  • Ron Redmond on mobile +254 734 564 019
  • In Ethiopia: Kisut Gebre Egziabher, on mobile +25 19 11 20 89 01
  • In Geneva: Adrian Edwards on mobile +41 79 557 91 20