UNHCR strengthens its presence in Dadaab refugee complex

Briefing Notes, 25 May 2012

This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson Melissa Fleming to whom quoted text may be attributed at the press briefing, on 25 May 2012, at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

As part of our efforts to ensure continuity of life-saving services for more than 460,000 refugees in the Dadaab refugee complex in north-eastern Kenya, we opened yesterday (Thursday, 24 May) a new office in this part of the country.

Dadaab is the largest refugee settlement in the world and spreads over an area of more than 50 square kilometres.

The new office, opened in the presence of Kenyan authorities, is called Alinjugur and is located in Fafi District, around 80 kilometers from the Somali border and some 20 kilometres from the main UNHCR compound in Dadaab. As of yesterday Alinjugur hosts staff of UNHCR and other agencies and NGOs. The teams based in Alinjugur will cover Hagadera and Kambioos sites which shelter some 150,000 Somali refugees.

The Alinjugur office will enable us to be closer to refugee communities and consequently, to provide better services for refugees and the host communities. Its opening is a result of talks and cooperation with the Kenyan authorities to decongest the camps and to increase the field presence for UNHCR and other humanitarian organizations. In addition, we are working closely with the host community to aid positive co-existence with refugees.

We are confident that the new development will enable us to expand humanitarian space and facilitate operations.

Security has been a major challenge in Dadaab in the last six month, restricting the scale of our field operations. The situation remains complex and tense as threats from improvised explosive devices, kidnappings, vehicle hijackings and banditry remain high.

Dadaab has been providing protection, shelter and humanitarian assistance to Somali refugees for two decades often under difficult and complex circumstances. Chronic overcrowding, a risk of disease, and seasonal floods are among these challenges.

For further information on this topic, please contact:

  • In Kenya (Dadaab): Bettina Schulte on mobile +254 720 095 990
  • In Kenya (Nairobi): Emmanuel Nyabera on mobile +254 733 995 975
  • In Geneva: Andrej Mahecic on mobile +41 79 200 7617
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Dadaab: World's Biggest Refugee Camp Turns 20

Last year, 2011, was the 20th anniversary of the world's biggest refugee camp - Dadaab in north-eastern Kenya. The anniversary is a reminder of the suffering of the Somali people, who have been seeking safety and shelter for two decades. UNHCR, which manages the Dadaab complex, set up the first camps there between October 1991 and June 1992. This followed a civil war in Somalia that in 1991 had culminated in the fall of Mogadishu and overthrow of the Siad Barre regime.

The original intention was for the three Dadaab camps to host up to 90,000 people. However today they host more than 463,000 people, including some 10,000 third-generation refugees born in Dadaab to parents who were also born there.

Last year's famine in Somalia saw more than 150,000 new arrivals, a third of the camp's current population. Overcrowding and stretched resources as well as security concerns have all had an impact on the camp, but UNHCR continues to provide life-saving assistance.

Dadaab: World's Biggest Refugee Camp Turns 20

Dire Times in Dadaab

Angelina Jolie's visit to Dadaab in north-east Kenya puts a spotlight on the overcrowded camp complex, home to tens of thousands of refugees.

When UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador Angelina Jolie visited Dadaab in north-east Kenya on September 12, 2009, she saw first-hand some of the tough conditions that tens of thousands of refugees must live in. The overcrowded three-camp complex is home to more than 285,000 mainly Somali refugees, making it the largest refugee settlement in the world. The camps were established in the early 1990s and were intended for a maximum of 90,000 people. Up to 7,000 people are now arriving every month to escape continuing conflict in Somalia. Jolie talked to residents about their daily life and their exile. These images show her meetings with the refugees of Dadaab and show some of the conditions they live in. Aside from overcrowding, they face water shortages, crammed classrooms, health problems, the coming rainy season and a range of other difficulties. UNHCR hopes new land will be allocated soon for the new arrivals.

Dire Times in Dadaab

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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