UN relocates first batch of Somali refugees from overcrowded Kenyan camp

A refugee child looks out from one of the three overcrowded camps in Dadaab, Kenya

18 August 2009 – The first of nearly 13,000 Somali refugees have been moved out of an overcrowded Kenyan camp by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the agency reported today.

Just over 300 refugees arrived on 15 August after a three-day road journey at Kakuma camp, in Kenya’s north-west, from the Dabaab complex, whose three sites house a total of 289,500 refugees.

Another convoy carrying 520 refugees left the congested Dabaab camps for Kakuma yesterday.

The relocation of Somali refugees “is part of a multi-phase plan to alleviate the chronic overcrowding in the 18-year-old Dabaab refugee camps, which currently host more than three times the population they were initially designed to accommodate,” UNHCR spokesperson Andrej Mahecic told reporters today in Geneva.

The moves will wrap up by the end of October before the start of the rainy season, he added.

Upon arriving in Kakuma, refugees were given blankets, sleeping mats and kitchen sets before being transferred to their new accommodations.

Escalating violence and a deteriorating humanitarian situation have driven thousands of Somalis from their homes, with many seeking refuge in neighbouring nations. Since the start of this year, more than 43,000 Somali refugees have arrived in Dabaab.

Mr. Mahecic also voiced concern over the prolonged clashes in Somalia, where a World Food Programme (WFP) compound was attacked over the weekend, the fourth time in two months that UN offices in the Horn of Africa nation have been deliberately targeted.

“The continued abductions, killing and intimidation of aid workers and the pillaging of humanitarian facilities and supplies are making it increasingly difficult to reach and access the needy population,” he said.

The security situation is also thwarting the delivery of aid to 1.3 million internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Somalia, where more than 3 million people are in dire need of assistance, the spokesperson emphasized.

UNHCR helps and protects over 500,000 refugees in Kenya, Yemen, Ethiopia, Djibouti and Uganda.


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