UNHCR starts emergency airlift of tents to Kenya, Ethiopia

News Stories, 18 July 2011

© UNHCR/R.Redmond
Family tents arriving in Nairobi on the first UNHCR airlift are being rushed to Dadaab refugee complex in eastern Kenya.

NAIROBI, Kenya, July 18 (UNHCR) The first airlifts of UNHCR tents have arrived in Ethiopia and Kenya and are being rushed to the borders with Somalia to shelter thousands of emaciated Somali refugees fleeing conflict and drought.

On Monday, the first Boeing 747 flight chartered by the UN refugee agency arrived in Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa with 2,100 tents from UNHCR's warehouse in Dubai. Further flights will bring additional tents, as well as vehicles and generators for the operation in Dollo Ado in southern Ethiopia, where some 75,000 Somalis have sought refuge since the beginning of the year.

In neighbouring Kenya, the first airlift also a Boeing 747 landed in the capital Nairobi on Sunday, carrying 100 tonnes of tents from UNHCR's stockpile in Kuwait. The 2,300 tents were loaded onto trucks and taken to the remote Dadaab refugee complex in eastern Kenya, where some 60,000 Somali refugees have arrived since January.

"Between Ethiopia and Kenya, we're receiving about 3,000 new refugees a day," said UNHCR spokesman in Nairobi, Ron Redmond. "Dadaab is absolutely packed, it's now four times the capacity it was built for, with 1,500 more refugees coming every day."

Dadaab is absolutely packed, it's now four times the capacity it was built for, with 1,500 more refugees coming every day.

Ron Redmond
UNHCR spokesman

Many of the refugees arrive emaciated from the drought and insecurity in Somalia, and exhausted after walking for weeks to reach aid. They receive immediate treatment and assistance, but the fast pace of arrivals is outstripping the capacity of host countries already suffering from the region's worst drought in 60 years.

Nonetheless, last week the Kenyan government announced that it would open a camp extension, Ifo II, to ease the congestion at Dadaab refugee complex. Authorities in Ethiopia are also setting up new camp, Hilowen, to host the newly-arriving Somali refugees.

In addition to the airlift of urgently-needed relief items, UNHCR is also deploying emergency staff for site planning, camp management, protection, community services and health. The agency has appealed for $136.3 million to meet the refugees' life-saving needs in Djibouti, Ethiopia and Kenya until the end of the year.




UNHCR country pages

Emergency Response

UNHCR is committed to increasing its ability to respond to complex emergency situations.

UNHCR in Dubai: First Line Responder in Emergencies

Information brochure about UNHCR's Global Emergency Stockpile located in Dubai.

Bonga Camp, Ethiopia

Bonga camp is located in the troubled Gambella region of western Ethiopia. But it remains untouched by the ethnic conflicts that have torn nearby Gambella town and Fugnido camp in the last year.

For Bonga's 17,000 Sudanese refugees, life goes on despite rumblings in the region. Refugee children continue with school and play while their parents make ends meet by supplementing UNHCR assistance with self-reliance projects.

Cultural life is not forgotten, with tribal ceremonies by the Uduk majority. Other ethnic communities – Shuluks, Nubas and Equatorians – are welcome too, judging by how well hundreds of newcomers have settled in after their transfer from Fugnido camp in late 2002.

Bonga Camp, Ethiopia

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


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.


Ethiopia: Education, A Refugee's Call to ServePlay video

Ethiopia: Education, A Refugee's Call to Serve

War forced Lim Bol Thong to flee South Sudan, putting his dreams of becoming a doctor on hold. As a refugee in the Kule camp in Gambella, Ethiopia, he has found another way to serve. Just 21 years old, Lim started teaching chemistry at the school's primary school and last year was promoted to Vice Principal.
Return to SomaliaPlay video

Return to Somalia

Ali and his family are ready to return to Somalia after living in Dadaab refugee camp for the past five years. We follow their journey from packing up their home in the camp to settling into their new life back in Somalia.
Kenya: High Commissioner Visits Dadaab Refugee CampPlay video

Kenya: High Commissioner Visits Dadaab Refugee Camp

Last week the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, António Guterres completed a visit to Kenya and Somalia where he met with the Presidents of the two countries, as well as Somali refugees and returnees.