GENEVA, Dec 19 – The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees is seeking $92 million to ease the plight of nearly 250,000 Somalis at Kenya’s Dadaab refugee camp.
Dadaab is one of the world’s oldest, largest and most congested refugee sites and there growing fears of even more arrivals as the situation in Somalia deteriorates.
The emergency assistance focuses on relieving dramatic overcrowding in three adjacent camps that are now three times their initial capacity, with thousands more people continuing to arrive each month.
The 17-year-old Dadaab camp complex is located in the remote eastern Kenya near the Somalia border.
With the continuing conflict in their homeland showing no sign of abating, more than 60,000 Somalis have crossed into Kenya so far in 2008.
Most come from Mogadishu and the Lower Juba regions of Kismayo, Jamame and Afmadow. The ongoing crisis is further compounded by severe drought conditions, food insecurity and periodic heavy flooding in the Horn of Africa.
High Commissioner António Guterres spent two days in Dadaab in June, when he pledged to camp residents that UNHCR would develop a comprehensive plan to address the twin problems of congestion in the camp and the legitimate socio-economic concerns of the host community.
“We must take action now to improve the general living conditions among a refugee population which has already suffered far too much,” Guterres said. “We also need to be prepared for the possibility of continued instability in Somalia and the outflows associated with that.”
The programme will include the construction of two new camps to ease the congestion in the three existing Dadaab sites as well as meet the needs of new arrivals from Somalia.
UNHCR and the Government of Kenya are actively searching for additional land to construct the new camps, which would each shelter up to 60,000 people.
The $92 million will also be used to improve the present poor living conditions of the refugees in the overcrowded camps, including strengthening the health care system among a population suffering recurrent illnesses such as anaemia and acute malnutrition.
The aging camps are also in need of new, improved sanitation systems and better refugee housing. Many residents still live in flimsy huts.
Additional funds are also needed for protection and legal assistance; complementary and supplementary feeding; and provision of basic household supplies.
Other activities include ensuring access to basic services through community-based projects for the Kenyan host community, which has been extremely generous over the years.