Kenya approves feeding centres for malnourished Somalis on border
MANDERA, Kenya, June 4 (UNHCR) - Three supplementary feeding centres will be set up in the north-eastern Kenya town of Mandera following the deaths of 10 Somali refugees, including eight children, from disease and malnutrition in the past 10 days.
With the approval of local authorities, construction work on the first feeding centre starts on Wednesday and is expected to be completed within a week. It will cater to refugees at a nearby makeshift camp along the volatile Kenya/Somalia border area. The camp hosts up to 5,000 Somali refugees.
The other two centres, to be set up in Mandera town itself, will meet the supplementary feeding needs of the local population and refugees living with family and friends.
Some 10,000 Somali refugees fled to Kenya following clan fighting in the Somali town of Bula Hawa, across the border, in April and May. Roughly half of them have returned to Somalia, allegedly under pressure from Kenyan and Somali officials.
Health workers report that the number of severely malnourished children in the over-stretched Mandera hospital had risen to 147 by the end of last week. About 40 per cent of them were refugees. At Border Point 1, some 800 of the 2,000 children there are moderately malnourished while 400 pregnant or lactating mothers are in urgent need of supplementary feeding. On Monday UNHCR flew in more than a ton of medical supplies to support the local hospital.
Relief agencies have been unable to distribute aid to refugees at the temporary Border Point 1 encampment due to its close proximity to the border. They fear attacks by armed militia from across the border, a mere 500 metres away. The Kenyan government has yet to authorise the transfer of the refugees to safer locations inside the country, despite weeks of negotiations with UNHCR.
A relocation convoy organised on May 24 to move the first group of 150 refugees to Dadaab refugee camp, some 500 km south, was called off after the government failed to give the final green light.
UNHCR is still pressing for government authorisation to move the refugees either to a more secure location in the Mandera area or to existing refugee camps in Dadaab.
UNHCR has also expressed concern over reports that local authorities in the Somali town of Bula Hawa told refugees at Border Point 1 that they had three days from last Sunday to return home or be forced back.
Tensions in the border area remain high amid fears of renewed fighting in and around the refugees' home villages.