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Aid Agency Calls for Scale-Up Response to Crisis at Three Somali Refugee Camps

The international aid agency Oxfam said the international community’s failure to end the war in Somalia is resulting in a spiral of human suffering and exodus to neighboring countries.

The group said hundreds of thousands of refugees who fled the violence in Somalia are now trapped in appallingly overcrowded cramps in Kenya, Ethiopia and Somalia itself.

Paul Lomas, Oxfam regional director in East Africa said the plight of the refugees is serious and desperate.

“The United Nations now describes this as the worse situation in almost 20 years. 3.10 million people are now estimated to be in need of humanitarian assistance; 1.7 million have been displaced in the last couple of years. And now on top of the conflict we are facing a situation of drought, probably the worst drought in about 10 years,” he said.

Oxfam said in a statement released September 3 that the international response to the crisis has been inadequate.

“In order to help humanitarian agencies like Oxfam to be able to improve and respond to the refugees and displaced people needs, money would be of fantastic help,” Lomas said.

He said although Oxfam’s primary concern is to ensure an adequate response to the humanitarian needs, the ultimate solution to the situation would be an end to the conflict in Somalia.

“I’m not a political analyst; I’m a member of a humanitarian agency. And I know that much is being done to try and address the root causes of the conflict. But despite all those many efforts, the situation on the ground has not changed. So while efforts do go on, they must be doubled and redoubled until we see impact on the ground,” Lomas said.

Oxfam said in its statement that the Dadaab refugee camp in northern Kenya which was built to house 8,000 refugees is now housing 280,000.

Lomas said the Kenyan government has yet to make good on its promise to provide more land to solve the overcrowding problem.

“The Kenyan government is the prime responsible government to ensure that adequate space was allocated to the camp to allow this decongestion to take place,” he said

Lomas said donor governments must also assist the process by providing funding to compensate land owners whose land might be used to ease the overcrowding at the Dadaab refugee camp.