Deputy High Commissioner Chamberlin visits flood-hit camps in Kenya
DADAAB, Kenya, December 18 (UNHCR) - UN Deputy High Commissioner for Refugees Wendy Chamberlin voiced concern about the vulnerability of refugees in north-east Kenya after visiting camps ravaged by heavy floods.
"This is my second visit to Dadaab this year. When I came in February, you were facing drought-related problems - now you are witnessing floods," Chamberlin said while touring two refugee camps here on Saturday. "I am struck with the cycle of death that Somali refugees face in this camp," she added.
Chamberlin visited Ifo and Hagadera, two of three camps around Dadaab town that house some 160,000 mainly Somali refugees. The floods displaced about 14,000 of Ifo's 53,000 refugees. Hagadera camp is located on higher ground and suffered less damage.
The Deputy High Commissioner met refugee leaders in Hagadera and heard about some of the problems they face in an area that has been cut off from Nairobi by road because of the high water levels. UNHCR has organised airlifts and airdrops to get supplies in - the latter with the help of the US Air Force.
"The main problem we are facing here is shelter since our houses were washed away," said Halimu Maalim Abdi, a spokesperson for the refugees at Hagadera. UNHCR has been distributing plastic sheets to help make new shelters.
"Children are very vulnerable and disabled people face a lot of difficulties, especially lack of proper shelter in this harsh climatic region" said another community leader, Kaffim Sheikh Mohamoud, highlighting a concern that Chamberlin picked up on.
She said she was worried about the vulnerability of the refugees in an area that has this year suffered both drought and floods, and which faces a further influx of refugees from troubled Somalia when the rainy season ends.
Chamberlin met some newly arrived Somali refugees and told them she hoped that a solution would be found soon to end the threat of all-out conflict in their country and to allow them to return home.
The Deputy High Commissioner also paid tribute to UNHCR staff working in Dadaab and to others who have been helping the refugees during the floods. "I am extremely proud of the UNHCR staff and partners for the sacrifice they have made to save lives," she said.
Chamberlin was accompanied by Elizabeth Kiarie of ECHO, the humanitarian aid arm of the European Commission. ECHO has been an important and valued partner of UNHCR.
By Emmanuel Nyabera in Dadaab, Kenya