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AU ‘Encouraged’ by Members’ Drought Relief Efforts

Somalis displaced by drought wait to receive food in their makeshift camp in Mogadishu, July 23, 2011

A senior official of the African Union (AU) official says the continental body is encouraged by member countries’ efforts to combat drought and famine in the Horn of Africa.

Erastus Mwencha, deputy chairperson of the African Union Commission, said the AU has scheduled an August 10 summit on the crisis.

“We will be looking at immediate and long term development in the region,” said Mwencha, “so we can develop enough mechanisms to address not just …[saving] lives, but also to look at how we can address drought and famine in the region.”

He said the AU has already appealed to African countries for support, some of which have already begun contributing to relief efforts.

He also praised the assistance of the international community.

“We were [there immediately] with a number of partners from the European Union [and] from many other partners who have given us a very positive response. But, we still need to move quickly because a number of people are still in danger if we don’t move as soon as we should,” said Mwencha.

Kenya has asked the AU and international relief groups to consider opening a new refugee camp in a “third country” after an official admitted that Nairobi is overwhelmed by the influx of Somali refugees. Camps along the border with Ethiopia are also filling up.

Mwencha concurs with the construction of a new site.

“That is a legitimate call,” said Mwencha, “because I have been to Dadaab [Kenya] and you have a camp there which was designed for about 90,000 people. But, at the moment that camps is holding over 300,000. The best alternative may be to construct some [new] camps.”

Kenya has built three camps for Somali refugees in Dadaab but has refused to expand them or build more. The government contends the camps contribute to environmental degradation.