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Kenya permits construction of feeding centres for starving Somali refugees - UN agency

Kenya permits construction of feeding centres for starving Somali refugees - UN agency

Following the death of 10 Somali refugees, including eight children, from disease and malnutrition, local authorities in north-eastern Kenya have allowed aid workers to set up three supplementary feeding centres, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) reported today.

Construction work on the first feeding centre near the town of Mandera is set to begin Wednesday and is expected to be completed within a week, a UNHCR spokesman said in Geneva. The first centre will cater to refugees at a nearby, makeshift camp - which hosts up to 5,000 Somali refugees - along the volatile Kenya-Somalia border area. The other two centres, to be set up in Mandera itself, will meet the supplementary feeding needs of the local population and refugees living with family and friends.

Health workers have reported that the number of severely malnourished children in Mandera Hospital had risen to 147 by the end of last week, some 40 per cent of them refugees, UNHCR spokesman Kris Janowski said. At Border Point 1, some 800 of the 2,000 children there were moderately malnourished while 400 pregnant or lactating mothers were in urgent need of supplementary feeding. Yesterday, the UN agency flew in more than a ton of medical supplies to support the local hospital.

According to Mr. Janowski, 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 and the fear of attacks by armed militia from across the border, a mere 500 metres away.

"The Kenyan Government is yet to authorize the transfer of the refugees to safer locations inside the country, despite weeks of negotiations with UNHCR," Mr. Janowski said, adding that a relocation convoy organized last week to move the first group of 150 refugees to a refugee camp some 500 kilometres further south was called off after the government failed to give the final green light.

"UNHCR is still pressing for government authorization to either move the refugees to a more secure location in the Mandera area or to existing refugee camps in Dadaab," he said.