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Somali Refugees Blocked From Living in New Camp in Kenya
Nairobi, January 21, 2011—Tens of thousands of Somali refugees continue to live in appalling conditions on the outskirts of already congested refugee camps in Dadaab, Kenya, while a nearby extension camp able to accommodate more people lies empty, the international medical humanitarian organization Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) said today. MSF urgently calls on the responsible actors involved in negotiations to open the new camp to facilitate the refugees’ immediate relocation.
The new camp, Ifo II, was created in response to the continuous influx of thousands of Somali refugees who are fleeing war and drought in Somalia. More than 400 refugees arrive daily in Dadaab and many were to be relocated to Ifo II, located less than 10 kilometers (about six miles) away, on November 2, 2010. Instead, the camp remains uninhabited, while tens of thousands of Somali refugees live in unacceptable conditions on the outskirts of another overcrowded camp, Dagahaley.
“The minimum international humanitarian standards are not being met,” said MSF Humanitarian Affairs Officer Elena Estrada. “The refugees have scarce access to water, food, non-food items, and shelter. There are no latrines, making open defecation the only option, and thus increasing the risk of the spread of disease, particularly in this vulnerable population group that is already fleeing years of war.”
Established in early 1991, the Dadaab refugee camps were meant to house 90,000 refugees. In 2008, the three camps in Dadaab were declared full and unable to host more people. The camps are currently home to more than 308,000 people from Somalia. After negotiations in December 2009 with the local community, elected leaders, the provincial administration, members of parliament, and the office of the United Nations High Commissioner on Refugees (UNHCR), extension camps with a capacity of 80,000 people were approved.
In the first two weeks of January 2011 alone, almost 6,000 refugees made the perilous journey from Somalia to Dadaab. However, instead of finding the necessary assistance and protection, the refugees are caught in the middle of negotiations over the opening of Ifo II and are left in unacceptable and undignified conditions outside Dagahaley.
Aid agencies, including MSF, are waiting to resettle and assist refugees in Ifo II, an area equipped with clean water, sanitation and health services, and schools. An MSF medical team has been on stand-by since October 2010 to assist patients in a temporary health structure, while a 45-bed hospital is being built.
In November 2010, MSF warned that the situation for the refugees living in spontaneous settlements outside Dagahaley camp was becoming untenable. The makeshift shelters and food supplies were destroyed after heavy rains, further deteriorating the already squalid living and health conditions of the refugees.
Insecurity is another problem facing the refugees. The majority of the new arrivals are children, women, and the elderly. Living outside the camps mean they have little or no protection and are vulnerable to further violence.
MSF has been assisting Somalis since 1992. The medical humanitarian organization started work in Dagahaley camp in March 2009, providing medical care including surgery and maternal health services, in a 110-bed hospital. The four MSF health centers offer vaccinations, antenatal care, and mental healthcare, with an average of 10,000 patient consultations every month.