Kenya: UN steps up airlift to more than 100,000 flood victims

28 November 2006

The United Nations refugee agency is stepping up its airlift of emergency supplies for more than 100,000 Somalis made homeless by massive flooding in Kenya’s Dadaab region, where they had sought shelter from drought and conflict in their own country.

“Airlifts are now the only viable means of getting relief supplies to the camps,” UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) spokesperson Jennifer Pagonis told a news briefing in Geneva today, noting that three flights had taken off from Nairobi, Kenya’s capital, since Friday, and two more were scheduled for today and tomorrow carrying plastic tarpaulins and medical supplies.

There are concerns about the rise in malaria cases. More mosquito nets are being sent to hospitals. Diarrhoea and malnutrition are also rising rapidly in Dadaab. Overall, the worst flooding in years is threatening up to 1.8 million people in Kenya, Somalia and Ethiopia.

Dadaab, a three-camp complex for 160,000 refugees, has been especially affected by heavy rains that washed away parts of the Garissa-Dadaab road, the only one connecting the remote camp to Nairobi.

UNHCR and other agencies in Dadaab have started developing a new site in the higher part of Ifo, one of the camps in the complex, in an effort to find a more permanent solution to the flooding problem. Around 1,000 refugees have already moved to the new site.

Temporary services such as health clinics, communal latrines, water points and food distribution centres will be constructed in the area. The distribution of food and supplies is ongoing with priority given to the most affected.

The Independent UN Expert on the situation of human rights in Somalia Ghanim Alnajjar today warned that the floods there have exacerbated the already serious humanitarian situation caused by drought and conflict.

“The rising flood waters are causing devastation to the Somali people and their livelihood and are hampering humanitarian relief efforts,” he said in a statement, calling on the international community “to urgently and generously assist strengthened flood relief efforts for Somalia.”

Last week, the UN World Food Programme (WFP) launched a regional air operation with fixed-wing aircraft and helicopters to transport humanitarian workers and aid to more than 1 million people in flood-stricken areas of Somalia and Kenya.

 

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