More than 270,000 refugees who have fled war in Somalia are facing alarming shortages of food, water, and adequate shelter in overcrowded camps located on the outskirts of Dadaab in northern Kenya. In 2008 alone, pushed by intense levels of violence in their country, more than 50,000 people arrived at the camps. Here, a boy waits to register at the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) at Dagahaley camp.
Doctors Without Borders/MSF began providing primary health care in February 2009 at a clinic in Dagahaley camp, which houses an estimated 91,000 refugees. Abu Bakar Mohammed, the MSF liaison officer, listens to a Somali woman, while others wait in line at the MSF health care clinic.
A newly arrived Somali girl waits in line to register at the UNHCR compound. Since Kenya has officially closed its border with Somalia, the registration process for refugees is disorganized and slow, and proper medical screenings and distribution of basic supplies are not taking place.
A recent MSF survey in Dagahaley Camp revealed a 22 percent prevalence of acute malnutrition among the population. The low level of food stocks in a World Food Program warehouse in Dadaab have led to a 30 percent reduction of rations distributed in the camps. In this photo, a Somali woman is able to receive a food handout at the MSF health care clinic in Dagahaley camp.
Shelters in the camps are inadequate. The lack of resources has forced many to use whatever materials they can find to build makeshift homes. Here, a Somali mother and child stand in the doorway of their makeshift shelter.
A Somali mother washes her baby. Water and sanitation services in the camps are dangerously scarce. Some residents survive on as little as three liters of water per day. Poorly maintained and insufficient latrines are increasing the threat of epidemics.
The camps are a public health nightmare. The refugees, many of whom are already suffering from serious war-related injuries or illnesses, are packed together without the bare minimum to survive – water, food, shelter, and medical care. MSF operates a primary health care clinic for 25,000 people, carrying out 150 outpatient consultations per day and providing vaccination services and nutritional support to malnourished children.
A woman holds her infant while she waits for food distribution at the MSF clinic. MSF staff report that refugees who have risked everything to escape the violence in Somalia are considering returning there rather than staying in the camps. Aid agencies are not able to meet the immense and rapidly growing needs of this war-weary population. MSF calls upon UNHCR, international donors, and the Kenyan government to urgently address the lack of assistance and protection provided to arriving refugees, and the dire living conditions in the camps.
Kenya: Somali Refugees Struggle in Overcrowded Camps