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After fleeing conflict, refugees uprooted again by Kenya floods

After fleeing conflict, refugees uprooted again by Kenya floods

23 November 2006

Widespread flooding in northern Kenya has left tens of thousands of refugees at UNHCR's sprawling Dadaab camp complex without shelter and facing extreme hardship.

After having already fled their strife-torn homeland, the floods have displaced more than 100,000 of the estimated 160,000 mainly Somali refugees in Dadaab's camps. With roads cut off by floodwaters, UNHCR quickly mounted an emergency airlift and rushed tonnes of aid supplies to the region.

But continuing rains and flash floods forced the evacuation of thousands of refugees to higher ground, many of them to Hagadera - the only one of the trio of Dadaab camps not severely affected by the crisis. Many of the refugees had to make the 20-km journey on foot. UNHCR also hired donkey carts and trucks to carry those unable to walk through the flooded landscape.

But tens of thousands remained in and around the flooded Ifo and Dagahaley camps in Dadaab as aid agencies struggled to help them and to combat the spread of disease. By the third week of November, five UNHCR emergency airlift flights had brought in thousands of plastic sheets for roofing, emergency health kits for tens of thousands of people, fuel and other supplies. Distributing it was difficult; several of UNHCR's vehicles and equipment had been caught in floodwaters which at times rose half a metre per hour.

In Ifo, the biggest of the Dadaab camps and temporary home to some 54,000 refugees, the hospital was almost completely flooded and patients had to be transferred to the sole dry ward.

Meteorologists have warned that the rains could continue for weeks.