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

Briefing Notes, 15 July 2011

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



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Advocacy is a key element in UNHCR activities to protect people of concern.

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.

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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.

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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.

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