GENEVA, Aug 18 – Hundreds of Somali refugees have started moving out of the world’s biggest refugee camp in Kenya in a bid to relieve pressure on the overcrowded complex at Dadaab, the UN refugee agency said Tuesday.
About 12,900 of Dadaab’s 289,500 inhabitants will be bussed to Kakuma refugee camp over the next couple of weeks following an agreement with the Kenyan government, said Andrej Mahecic, a spokesman for the office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees.
The refugees face an arduous three-day bus journey across the north of Kenya.
"We have started relocating the first of some 12,900 Somali refugees from the overcrowded Dadaab refugee complex in northeastern Kenya to Kakuma camp in the northwest," Mahecic told journalists.
"The first 311 refugees arrived in Kakuma this weekend after a three day journey by road," he added.
About 43,000 Somali refugees have arrived at Dadaab since the beginning of the year, fleeing escalating violence, according to the UNHCR.
The sprawling 18 year-old camp complex houses three times more people than it was designed to hold. Work is also underway to improve water and sanitation there.
The UNHCR is helping some 510,000 Somali refugees who fled to Kenya, Yemen, Ethiopia, Djibouti and Uganda.
"At the same time we are seriously concerned about the deteriorating security situation in Somalia," said Mahecic.
He warned that the wave of "abductions, killings and intimidation of aid workers, and pillaging" of relief supplies added to the difficulty of reaching some 1.3 million people who are displaced inside the country.
Security guards repelled an attack on a World Food Programme compound in Somalia in Sunday, leaving three attackers dead after a gunfight, UN officials said.
An estimated 3.2 million people inside Somalia are rely on emergency urgent humanitarian aid, according to the UNHCR.