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USD 136.3 million needed to save lives in the Horn of Africa

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USD 136.3 million needed to save lives in the Horn of Africa

8 July 2011

GENEVA, July 08 (UNHCR) - The UN refugee agency is seeking additional funds to ease the plight of Somali refugees in neighbouring Kenya, Ethiopia and Djibouti amid deteriorating conditions and growing displacement from Somalia.

In an urgent appeal, issued today, UNHCR said US$ 136.3 million was needed to address the life-saving needs of up to 90,000 new arrivals in Ethiopia as well as ongoing arrivals in Djibouti and Kenya until the end of the year.

"In Dollo Ado I saw with my own eyes the enormous suffering of the Somali people trying to reach safety and food. Refugee children are dying and their mothers, reduced to walking skeletons, face the unbearable choice of which child to save first," said UN High Commissioner for Refugees, António Guterres, who visited the area in southeast Ethiopia bordering Somalia on Thursday.

The UN refugee agency estimates that a quarter of Somalia's 7.5 million population is now either internally displaced or living outside the country as refugees. Relentless violence compounded by devastating drought has forced more than 135,000 Somalis to flee so far this year. In June alone, 55,000 people fled to Kenya and Ethiopia, three times the number of people who fled in May. The influx continues unabated and malnutrition rates among the new arrivals are the highest seen in decades.

The Somali refugees are arriving in an appalling state of health, dehydrated and severely malnourished, especially children. Malnutrition rates among newly-arriving refugee children under the age of five range from 40 to 50 per cent.

The massive influx is creating enormous challenges and has stretched the capacity of the Kenyan and Ethiopian authorities and of UNHCR to screen, register and shelter new arrivals.

In Somalia and neighbouring countries, UNHCR and its partners are struggling to respond fully and effectively to the protection and assistance needs of some 750,000 Somali refugees and 1.4 million internally displaced people (IDPs).

Urgent funding is needed for UNHCR's existing and supplementary requirements for Somali refugees to avoid a humanitarian catastrophe in the Horn of Africa.