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UN urges Kenya not to turn back Somali refugees

NAIROBI, Kenya, Feb 5- The United Nations has expressed concern over the rising insecurity in Somalia, saying it will worsen the humanitarian crisis created by the ongoing drought in the region.

UN Under Secretary for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator Valerie Amos said the insecurity made it difficult to reach and assist internal refugees in need of assistance.

She noted that one in every four children in the country was extremely malnourished while at the same time asking Kenya not to send any Somali refugees back. 

“If you have areas of a country which are controlled by armed opposition and you are not able to negotiate access for humanitarian workers, it becomes very hard to assess the needs of the populations in those areas,” she explained.

According to the latest country wide assessment 2.4 million Somalis are in need of emergency aid.

Ms Amos added that the figure could rise due to the deepening drought crisis.

“We will continue supporting Kenya and Somalia because this for us is about the people. There is always a face behind every statistic; it is a human tragedy what is happening in Somalia,” she said. 

The UN further asked Kenya to put in place long term contingency steps that would, in future, mitigate drought and its effects.

Ms Amos explained that it was difficult for the UN to get funding from its donors, in aid of humanitarian support for needy countries, as the donors insisted on long lasting solutions.

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“We also need to persuade our donors that these are people who require our support. Quite frankly it is more difficult to do it when donors are not able to go into the country and actually see for themselves,” she said.

“Donors want us to shift from constantly focusing on humanitarian action, which is short term, and move to a situation where you promote sustainable measures,” she added.

The UN has also developed a horn of Africa food security strategy which brings together the leadership of Oxfam, World Food Programme and the Food and Agriculture Organization and links them together with measures being developed by Inter Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD).

“So we are bringing support both at the country and regional levels. Because as you can see, droughts and floods are not things that respect boundaries,” said Ms Amos.

She argued that African countries should have climate change adaptation measures in order to build their resilience and reduce drought related emergencies.

She added that the recurring famine forced communities to move to urban areas that were unprepared to receive them.

“Last year we launched what we call a consolidated appeal for 2011 for both Kenya and Somalia for over Sh45.5 billion. Separate to that we will be looking at whether or not we need to release additional resources to tackle the drought,” she said.

UN resident representative to Kenya Aeneas Chuma added that the country should ensure livelihoods are protected and that food is available for those most at risk as the ongoing famine continues to bite.

“There is nothing new here; I mean in January and February things are generally dry. So we have taken steps to minimise the impact of the drought by providing water to the livestock as well as people. But these are short term measures,” he said.

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