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UN agency begins airlifting aid to flooded refugee camp in Kenya

UN agency begins airlifting aid to flooded refugee camp in Kenya

The United Nations refugee agency today began airlifting emergency supplies to thousands of stranded refugees in Kenya who lost their homes to four days of torrential rains.

Since last week, a complex comprised of three camps for some 130,000 refugees in Dadaab has been cut off by heavy rains that washed away parts of the only road connecting the camp to the country's capital, Nairobi, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said. Airlifts are now the only viable means of transport to this remote camp close to the Kenyan border with Somalia.

UNHCR-chartered flights began delivering fuel yesterday from Garissa, a provincial capital located some 100 kilometres away. Ten flights have already delivered 12,000 litres of fuel in an initial delivery that is expected to meet the camp's fuel needs for up to eight days.

The diesel is used for vehicles and for generators that provide power to offices, hospitals, clinics, and drive water pumps throughout the camp. The refugee agency said the low fuel stocks have already reduced supplies of usable water by nearly half. School has also been disrupted, as classrooms remain buried under water.

More than 650 refugee families are now homeless in one of the three Dadaab camps, which shelters some 40,000 refugees. Refugees reported that they had lost a large number of livestock in the floods. UNHCR said 550 refugee shelters had so far collapsed and it is continuing to assess the situation closely.

Affected families have been relocated to a community centre and the UNHCR field office. Other refugees are staying with friends or relatives in drier parts of the camp. The UN World Food Programme (WFP) is also providing sacks to be used as sandbags to protect hospitals and clinics around the two camps.

UNHCR said it is working with the Kenyan Government to expedite the release from customs of plastic sheeting used by refugees to cover their shelters. More than 18,000 pieces of plastic sheeting are awaiting customs clearance at Mombassa.