Kenya: UN rushes in aid to help scores of thousands of refugees threatened by floods
United Nations refugee agency workers are rushing to aid scores of thousands of Somalis uprooted by devastating floods in north-eastern Kenya, deploying earth-moving equipment to reinforce dykes holding back waters threatening a series of camps in the Dadaab region.
“Should this dyke burst, the consequences would be disastrous for the population,” the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said in its latest update, terming the situation “catastrophic” and noting that further rains would increase the danger to the 37,000 residents in Dagahaley, one of three camps at Dadaab.
Heavy rains late last week killed two people, left more than 78,000 uprooted in the Dagahaley and Ifo camps, and caused latrines to overflow, leaving the region seriously affected by polluted water.
UNHCR teams which reached the two camps on Tuesday found the first cases of feverish children with eye and skin infections, with diarrhoea also becoming widespread.
While waters have receded slightly, UNHCR decided to postpone a general fortnightly food distribution from yesterday until today. UNHCR and its partners have begun distributing limited food and medical aid, but the refugees have had little opportunity to cook in the wet conditions.
“The nutritional state of the population is therefore becoming critical,” the situation report said, while also noting that there was no dry wood for cooking.
The situation was not as desperate in Dagahaley, where schools had managed to conduct final exams, but the stability of the dykes was a concern. The waters destroyed hundreds of makeshift shelters in both camps.
The influx of Somalis into Kenya has surged in recent months, with 32,000 refugees pouring in since the beginning of 2006, a number that could reach 80,000 by the end of this year, joining thousands who were forced to move by earlier violence and drought in Somalia. The total population of refugees in Dadaab's camps now stands at 160,000 people, the majority of them from Somalia.
UNHCR estimates that up to 90 per cent of Ifo’s 54,000 refugees have been affected by the flooding, while in Dagahaley, 10 kilometres away, up to 80 per cent of the camp’s residents may have lost much of their belongings and their homes.