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Friday, July 1, 2011

Roundup: Chaos reported at Kenya's refugee camp amid influx from Somalia

Xinhua News Agency
By Chrispinus Omar
July 1, 2011
NAIROBI, July 1 (Xinhua) -- The UN refugee agency said it saw serious disturbances in the Dagahley section of the Dadaab refugee complex in Kenya on Thursday which led to the death of two refugees while dozens others were injured.

In a statement issued on Friday, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said rioting broke out when police sought to disperse a crowd that was protesting an attempt to demolish illegal structures around a food distribution point.

"Teargas was used, and later live gunshot. Our information is that two refugees were killed and around a dozen injured. The security situation was still being evaluated late yesterday (Thursday)," the agency said.

Sadly, it said, the incident was symptomatic of the pressures at the camp amid overcrowding compounded by the very high number of arrivals the UNHCR has been seeing recently from Somalia.

According to the UNHCR, more than 61,000 Somalis have sought safety in Kenya since the start of the year.

"As of June 6 we had opened three emergency centers in Dadaab. Since then a further 27,000 people have approached the reception centers at these sites. Last week, the population of Dadaab passed 370,000," it said.

The same outflow is being seen in Ethiopia, which has seen 55, 000 Somali refugees arriving since the start of this year.

About 26 per cent of new arrivals are malnourished, while among children this rate is higher at about three-in-five.

The UNHCR has introduced a blanket feeding program for children below the age of five. Urgent funding is needed to deal with this situation.

The two existing camps in Ethiopia's south-east, Bokolmanyo and Malkadida, which were opened in April 2009 and February 2010 respectively, accommodate over 70,000 refugees and have reached full capacity.

Meanwhile, the UNHCR said it opened a new camp was opened last Friday in cooperation with the Ethiopian authorities at Kobe, some 50 kilometers from Dollo Ado to provide protection and shelter for new Somali arrivals to Ethiopia.

This is the third camp for Somalis in southeast Ethiopia and the sixth in the country. At present Ethiopia hosts 130,000 Somali refugees.

"As of yesterday (Thursday) we had transported 7,500 Somali refugees from the transit center at Dollo Ado to the camp at Kobe, which can accommodate up to 20,000 people," it said.

However, it said with the mass influx continuing there is significant congestion at the reception and transit centers and Kobe is expected to reach full capacity in a matter of days. Ethiopian authorities have already allocated land for a fourth camp near Kobe.

"Together with our partners we are rapidly expanding basic infrastructure, including water and sanitation services, a health center and basic communal facilities. Schools and other facilities and services are also planned," the UNHCR said.

Humanitarian agencies inside Somalia say they remain concerned about mines and other continuing security threats, making access extremely dangerous and difficult.

"We are also receiving reports that people displaced by drought, lack of food and insecurity in the Bay, Bakool and Lower Shabelle regions are arriving in Mogadishu in search of food and other humanitarian assistance," it said.

There are now more than 750,000 Somali refugees living in the region, mostly in neighboring Kenya (405,000), Yemen (187,000) and Ethiopia (110,000). Another 1.46 million are displaced within Somalia.


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