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Somalia Refugees Stressing Kenya Aid Agencies


A surge in Somali refugees to Kenya has left Nairobi struggling. Sixty thousand Somalis have crossed the border this year, three times more than in previous years. The U.N. refugee agency representative in Kenya has traveled to London to appeal to the British government for help. VOA's Mandy Clark reports from London.

Liz Ahua is in London with a special appeal for the British government. She is the U.N. refugee agency's representative in Kenya and says her agency needs more aid for the refugees there.

"Our message is there is a humanitarian crisis out there which is growing," Ahua said. "They do not have near enough humanitarian assistance that has been given to them. We are going to be sending out a special appeal for additional resources to meet the basic needs."

Ahua says the appeal is necessary because the United Nations is already struggling to help Somali refugees in Kenya. Camps in the northeastern region of the country are severely over-crowded. They were designed for 90,000 people, but now shelter more than 220,000. Aid officials say there is not enough food and water for the refugees there, who are already suffering from malnutrition. And, says Ahua, there is a concern things could get worse.

"At the moment, we have referred the refugees to their friends and to their relations in the camps," she said. "So a homestead that was suppose to be having one person is now having two, three and you can imagine, yes, cholera and the outbreak of disease is very much a big concern."

Another big concern is the on-going crisis in Somalia that has caused so many to flee. The country has had no effective government since 1991.

A transitional government backed by Ethiopian troops threw out Islamists from the capital, Mogadishu, two years ago. Since then, insurgent groups have carried out near-daily attacks and Somali fishermen have turned to piracy, attacking even large cargo ships in nearby waters and holding the cargos and crews for ransom.

Liz Ahua says, until the conflict is solved, the refugee crisis in the region will not end.

"Compared to where we were last year, the situation has degraded exponentially," Ahua said. "There are skirmishes. There are wars. There are some who are fleeing from famine because there has been a drought in Somalia. The international community and especially Britain have to play their role to ensure that we find a solution, with the Somalis, to the crisis that has been there for the past 18 to 19 years."

Ahua meets with members of the British government during her visit to London and then goes to Belgium and other European countries to ask for help. She says the lives of so many refugees depend on it.


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