Dadaab—No room for Somali refugees in Kenya camp

Fri, 2011-06-10 14:59 by admin
A Somali refugee woman who just arrived at the Dagahaley camp, walks past makeshift shelters, in Dadaab, near the Kenya-Somalia border, April 3, 2011. REUTERS/Thomas Mukoy

Photo: A Somali refugee woman who just arrived at the Dagahaley camp, walks past makeshift shelters, in Dadaab, near the Kenya-Somalia border, April 3, 2011. REUTERS/Thomas Mukoy

Source: alertnet // Katy Migiro

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NAIROBI (AlertNet) – A humanitarian emergency is unfolding in the world’s biggest refugee camp in Kenya, where malnourished children arriving from Somalia wait unsheltered in the desert for an average of 12 days to be given food, medical charity Medecins sans Frontieres (MSF) said in a report on Thursday.

The Kenyan government closed its border to refugees fleeing war in neighbouring Somalia in 2007, citing security concerns, and the United Nations (U.N.) announced in 2008 it had no more space for new arrivals.

But conflict and the worst drought in years have forced 44,000 Somalis to seek admittance into Dadaab camp since the start of this year.

“The camps are completely full. People are arriving and they do not find any space anymore, meaning they don’t have access to water and other facilities,” Joke van Peteghem, MSF’s head of mission in Kenya, told AlertNet.

“You get more and more people sitting outside of the camp without proper protection and proper support.”

Humanitarian agencies are unable to get food aid into Somalia, which has been at war since 1991, because Al Shabaab rebels fighting the government are hostile towards them.

Health Emergency

When child mortality rates in MSF’s intensive feeding programme in the camp’s hospital started to spike, the agency hired extra community health workers to search for malnourished children among new arrivals to ensure they receive treatment faster.

It has set up a temporary health post in the new arrivals area, which sees 110 patients a day.

On arrival, 60 percent of families report illness, having walked through the desert for many days with nothing more than the clothes on their backs.

“People, and especially children under five, are coming in worse physical condition. We are observing more and more children being malnourished,” said van Peteghem.

“If you take a week before they get proper food and they look for healthcare, for sure the status of these children will deteriorate.”

In MSF’s hospital in the camp, tents have been set up on the grounds and extra beds crammed into the maternity ward to accommodate some of the 864 severely malnourished children receiving treatment. An additional 2,387 children are receiving supplementary feeding for moderate malnutrition.

“Health indicators are now at an emergency level,” said Gedi Mohammed, director of the hospital.

Hyenas Kill Children

Upon arrival, families build makeshift shelters to shield themselves from the burning desert sun, using whatever materials they can find. It takes an average of 34 days to receive blankets and cooking utensils from the U.N.’s refugee agency. …

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