Urgent aid needed for overcrowded Kenyan refugee camp, says top UN official

5 August 2009

The United Nations refugee chief has appealed for a massive injection of funds to help residents in Kenya’s sprawling and overcrowded Dadaab complex, which he described as “the most difficult camp situation in the world.”

Located some 90 kilometres from the border with Somalia, the three camps at Dadaab were built to house 90,000 people but today are home to more than three times that number, mostly Somalis.

“Together with the Kenyan people and the Kenyan authorities, we are facing one of the most dramatic refuge crises of the recent past in Dadaab,” UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres said during a visit to the camp yesterday.

Mr. Guterres, who is on a three-day visit to Kenya, announced that the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) would provide an additional $20 million this year to meet the needs of refugees and the host community.

He also called on donors to provide funds to help the refugees and the local people, citing water, sanitation, health, nutrition and shelter as the areas needing urgent improvement, according to a news release issued by UNHCR.

“We count on the cooperation of the Kenyan Government and the solidarity of the international community to make this possible and to mitigate the high price paid by the host community whose resources are being rapidly depleted,” the High Commissioner stated.

During his visit Mr. Guterres watched UNHCR and Kenyan Government officials conduct a joint verification exercise for long-term refugees in order to update the number of people in the camp.

He also visited the hospital in Hagadera camp and spoke to teachers and parents at a secondary school run by the local community, in addition to meeting representatives of the refugee and host communities.

The High Commissioner said UNHCR would relocate some of the refugees to Kakuma, a camp near Kenya’s north-west border with Sudan, while emphasizing that extra land was needed to develop a new camp south of Dadaab.

Mr. Guterres is expected to discuss these and other issues during his talks with Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki, Prime Minister Raila Odinga and other top Government officials.

 

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