OCHA, the office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, says the situation at the Dadaab refugee camps in Kenya is dire. Humanitarian agencies are dealing with high levels of insecurity and violence. They say they have had to scale back operations to the bare minimum, to essential life-saving services.
“Dadaab is a highly volatile situation. It is a massive size population of around 450,000 people - at least the size of a small city by Kenya standards,” said Matthew Conway, public information officer for OCHA’s eastern Africa region. “The insecurity there has just been growing and growing to the point where we are now getting reports of refugees fleeing the refugee camp, seeking safety elsewhere.”
Conway said militant elements in the camp are attacking Kenyan security forces.
“There have been attacks on, and abductions of aid workers working in the camp. So it’s an extremely worrisome situation where right now we are not seeing refugees receiving the kind of protection that they need,” he said.
As a result of the insecurity, there have been heavy crackdowns by Kenyan security forces as they work to weed out the harmful elements that have found their way into the camp.
Conway said while Somalia has been the eye of the storm in terms of conflict, the violence has spread beyond the borders.
“It’s a very difficult situation because Kenya has to defend itself in various areas, so security is spread thin,” added Conway.
He said it is a difficult task dealing with militant elements who have taken the population hostage.
The OCHA spokesman said for the humanitarian community at Dadaab, keeping those who have fled conflict in their country safe and protected remains a top priority. He said aid workers also wish to provide the refugees services they need until the situation in their home region stabilizes.
Meanwhile, education, healthcare and other basic services remain on hold due to security concerns at the camp. To hear the complete interview, please click on audio.