News / Africa

Somali Refugees May Face Severe Aid Shortages

A newly arrived Somali family carry their supply of aid outside Dadaab, Eastern Kenya, Aug. 5, 2011. (AP)A newly arrived Somali family carry their supply of aid outside Dadaab, Eastern Kenya, Aug. 5, 2011. (AP)
A newly arrived Somali family carry their supply of aid outside Dadaab, Eastern Kenya, Aug. 5, 2011. (AP)
A newly arrived Somali family carry their supply of aid outside Dadaab, Eastern Kenya, Aug. 5, 2011. (AP)
Joe DeCapua
Aid agencies warn that tens of thousands of lives may be at risk as supplies run out at the world’s largest refugee camp. They say 25 million dollars in emergency funds are needed for humanitarian operations at Kenya’s Dadaab camp.

Aid agencies say funding has not kept pace with the growing needs at Dadaab. Oxfam spokesman Alun McDonald said the funds are needed in the next two or three months.

“One year ago we had this massive influx of people from Somalia fleeing the famine and the conflict that were taking place inside Somalia. And the pictures of people arriving in the camp having walked for weeks across the desert with no food and water really captured the world’s attention, and got of a lot of attention on Dadaab. But then a year later a lot of that attention has faded away,” he said.

Dadaab is made up of 5 separate camps in northeastern Kenya. It’s 20 years old and was already overcrowded before last year’s influx of refugees.

“The camp is bigger than ever. There are 160,000 people who arrived last year and in total there are nearly a half a million people now in the camp. But the funding available for the camp is only really at the levels it was before the big influx last year. So we’re faced with a camp that has growing needs but less money,” said McDonald.

The agencies say the funding shortfall threatens essential services including water, sanitation, health care and shelter.

“Some people in the camp are living in fairly well-established areas where there are houses made of brick and made of stone. So those are fine. The issue is with a lot of the people who arrived last year. They’ve been living in basic tents sort of on the edge of the camp and the extreme heat that you get in Dadaab and also the heavy rains and the heavy wind – these sort of flimsy tents tend to wear away very quickly within a few months,” he said.

McDonald said about 30,000 new shelters are currently needed, but there’s only money for about 4,000. He says over the next few months the gap will widen.

The Oxfam spokesman added funding is also needed for education.

“At the moment the majority of children in Dadaab don’t get a good education. So it makes it very hard for the children to then go back to Somalia and play a constructive role in the peace process there. And it also increases the chance of them being recruited into militia or banditry activity if there are no alternative jobs,” he said.

He said, in fairness to donors, there are many other humanitarian crises demanding their attention. This includes the hunger crisis in West Africa’s Sahel region.

“We do need to look at the long-term future of Dadaab. So we really need a solution that doesn’t involve us having to keep pumping money year after year into the camp. We need a peaceful solution in Somalia so that people can go home,” he said.

He said refugees should also receive skills training so they can find jobs when they eventually return to Somalia.

Oxfam is joined in making the $25 million appeal by CARE, Catholic Relief Services, the Danish Refugee Council, International Rescue Committee, Lutheran World Federation, Save the Children and Terre des Hommes.

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