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New Somali Refugee Camp Set to Open in Kenya

  • Joe DeCapua

A child stands in front of her home at a refugee camp in Dadaab, Kenya, Thursday, Aug 4, 2011.

A child stands in front of her home at a refugee camp in Dadaab, Kenya, Thursday, Aug 4, 2011.

With more than 400,000 Somalis now in Dadaab, Kenya, the opening of a new refugee camp there is welcome news. Somalis begin moving to the Kambioos site Saturday.

As drought and famine get worse in Somalia, the refugee population in Kenya is growing by the day. The U.N. refugee agency, UNHCR, says, in effect, Dadaab has become Kenya’s third largest city.

“The situation here in Dadaab was already critical at the beginning of this year. This was already the largest refugee camp in the world. And since then, some 120,000 new refugees have fled Somalia and come looking for protection and safety and aid here,” said William Spindler is UNHCR’s spokesperson at the camps.

Woefully overcrowded

“People cannot physically settle inside the camps anymore and they’re settling outside at the edge of the camps in land that is totally unsuitable for them to settle in. Areas that are liable to flooding in the rainy season. Areas where it’s very difficult to provide services and safety for them, particularly women. There have been some instances of sexual violence against them,” he said.

The Kambioos camp will eventually provide shelter for 90,000 people.

“We are building some very, very basic infrastructures so that refugee families can move in. We are pitching tents. And the camp is about four or five kilometers from the Hagadera camp, one of the three camps that make up this complex. The land has been cleared and latrines are being built,” said Spindler.

Kambioos is built on scrubland that’s been parched by the drought in the Horn of Africa. Many of the livestock of the local Kenyan population have died.

“So there is a lot of competition for the few available resources in terms of grazing land and water. And this makes it difficult for us to find areas where people can settle in,” he said.

Meanwhile, the relocation of refugees to the new Ifo Extension camp continues. Since July 25th, about 15,000 refugees have been moved there. As with Kambioos, Ifo Extension will eventually hold 90,000 people.

“In total,” he said, “we hope to move some 180,000 people by the end of November. And for that we desperately need money to buy 45,000 tents. We don’t have enough tents at the moment to accommodate all these people. But also, everybody who arrives in Dadaab is receiving food and basic humanitarian assistance. But we need to keep that vital lifeline open. And we need to replenish our stocks.”

UNHCR says about 1500 Somali refugees arrive at Dadaab every day. Many are suffering from severe malnutrition and dehydration. They’re also are tired and frightened. In a few months, the population at Dadaab could swell to a half million.

Meanwhile, in southeastern Ethiopia, at Dollo Ado, measles immunization has begun for about 18,000 Somali children. In all, there are about 120,000 refugees there, with up to 300 new arrivals each day.