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Conflict, Drought Forcing Thousands of Somalis to Flee to Kenya


Conflict, Drought Forcing Thousands of Somalis to Flee to Kenya
Conflict, Drought Forcing Thousands of Somalis to Flee to Kenya
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The UN refugee agency says conflict and drought are forcing thousands of Somalis to flee to Kenya. The UNHCR reports about 6,400 refugees are arriving in Kenya every month, creating further pressure on the overcrowded Dadaab refugee camp.

The UN refugee agency reports more than 50,000 Somalis desperate to escape the fighting and poverty in their country have fled to Kenya. This averages out to 6,400 people a month, a figure the UNHCR describes as overwhelming.

The refugees are coming, but there is nowhere to put them except for the Dadaab refugee camps. This complex is already housing three times the population it was designed to hold.

UN refugee spokesman, Andrej Mahecic, notes the facilities and resources are overstretched. He says recent efforts to lessen the camp population are not having the desired effect. "In mid-August, we embarked on a program aimed at decongesting Dadaab and started the relocation of some 12,900 refugees to Kakuma camp in northwest Kenya. Despite the fact that we have already moved 9,570 refugees, the camp population in Dadaab remains virtually unchanged. There are now 281,000 Somali refugees there," Mahecic, said.

The UNHCR is continuing to move refugees from Dadaab to Kakuma camp. It says more than 3,000 refugees will be relocated by October 7 when the program will come to an end.

The agency has been asking the Kenyan government to allocate more land for the refugees to ease the pressure on Dadaab. But, so far, Mahecic says, these talks have led nowhere. "We are still talking to the government. This is still on the table and this is not just a matter of the government in Nairobi, but also the issue of the local authorities and the local communities where the new camp that we would like to set up would be erected. The border is closed formally, but the border is porous and, indeed people are coming across that border and arriving at Dadaab daily, queuing up for registration and getting into the camp," Mahecic said.

Kenya has been experiencing a prolonged drought. Now, the country is being subjected to torrential rains. Meteorologists are forecasting that Kenya will be hit by the El-Nino phenomenon, which is responsible for extreme weather conditions.

Mahecic warns Dadaab is likely to be heavily flooded in the coming weeks and this is likely to cause outbreaks of disease among the hundreds of thousands of Somali refugees.