Global perspective Human stories

UN to airlift critical supplies to thousands of Somali refugees marooned in Kenya by floods

UN to airlift critical supplies to thousands of Somali refugees marooned in Kenya by floods

The United Nations refugee agency will begin airlifting critical emergency supplies over the weekend for scores of thousands of Somalis made homeless by massive flooding in Kenya’s Dadaab region after heavy rains swept across the low-lying camps, wrecking homes and uprooting more than 78,000 people.

A twin-engine deHavilland C-8 Buffalo cargo aircraft chartered by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) will make three flights into Dadaab’s airfield on Sunday from Nairobi, Kenya’s capital, to deliver 25,000 plastic tarpaulins, emergency health kits and 7.2 tonnes of fuel.

“Sunday’s initial delivery of supplies is critical since there is a desperate need for plastic tarpaulins to help refugees reconstruct their shelters,” UNHCR spokesman Ron Redmond told a news briefing in Geneva.

“If roads in the region remain impassable, UNHCR expects to mount further flights next week to get more emergency supplies into Dadaab, where three refugee camps close to the border with Somalia shelter more than 160,000 mainly Somali refugees, including more than 30,000 people who fled the ongoing fighting and chaos in Somalia over recent months,” he added.

Delivery of supplies, including tarpaulins, plastic sleeping mats and other items to the two worst affected camps from the main aid compound at Dadaab has not been possible until today due to the massive flows of water that have swept across the region. The sick and elderly will be given first priority in today’s distribution due to limited stocks.

Kenyans living around the refugee camps have also been affected and have approached UNHCR for assistance. In Dagahaley, UNHCR staff started using a mechanical digger to reinforce the dykes surrounding the camp to protect against further flooding.

The UN World Food Programme (WFP) is providing 20,000 sandbags to protect hospitals and clinics in Ifo and Dagahaley camps. Health workers report that diarrhoea cases are on the rise, but remain within acceptable limits. Ifo camp’s hospital has been badly damaged, forcing the removal of some patients to less affected parts of the facility.

The influx of Somalis into Kenya, fuelled by fresh fighting between the transitional government, the Union of Islamic Courts movement and warlords, 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.

Somalia has been riven by factional fighting and has not had a functioning national government since President Muhammad Siad Barre’s regime was toppled in 1991.