, NAIROBI, Kenya, Aug 6 – The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) announced on Thursday that it had embarked on a major decongestion exercise at the Dadaab refugee camp which is home to nearly 300,000 refugees.
High Commissioner Antonio Guterres said the first batch will be moved to Kakuma, a camp near Kenya’s north-west border with Sudan before end of September.
“The first group of 12,900 refugees will be moving almost immediately before the rainy season because we want to avert a crisis,” he said.
“This is part of a comprehensive decongestion and upgrade package for Dadaab,” he told reporters in Nairobi.
Mr Guterres announced that more refugees would be moved from the congested camp once an alternative land is secured.
“There is urgent need to find an alternative land to develop a new camp to accommodate the surging number of refugees from Somalia and this logistics are worked on,” he added.
He said UNHCR will spend US$10 million on community projects to improve the environment, such as reforestation, and on providing water, health and education services for the local population.
“The long-term refugee population urgently needs improved infrastructure including water distribution networks and expanded services such as health and education,” he said.
He said an additional US$20 million would be provided this year to meet the needs of refugees and the host community and at the same time appealed for more funds from donors.
“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,” he said.
And he added: “Together with the Kenyan people and the Kenyan authorities, we are facing one of the most dramatic refugee crises of the recent past in Dadaab, in a semi arid area far from everything.”
Dadaab which is located in North Eastern province is home to some 300,000 refugees mainly from Somalia and continues to receive thousands more monthly.
Mr Guterres who is on an official three-day visit to Kenya described Dadaab as “the most difficult camp situation in the world.”
UNHCR statistics shows that up to 6,500 new arrivals of refugees flood to the camps each month, putting a further strain on the already overstretched resources.
Only a third of the new arrivals have been provided with land to erect a shelter, the rest have been forced to stay with friends and family.