Fresh wave of Somali refugees flee to Kenya

Somali refugees run from the dust at Ifo camp near Dadaab, about 80km (50 miles) from Liboi on the border with Somalia in north-eastern Kenya, January 8, 2007. Photo/FILE

Drought and instability are forcing thousands more Somalis to flee to Kenya, the United Nations top humanitarian affairs official has said.

The new waves of refugees from urban areas in central and southern Somalia will join the more than 430,000 Somalis who have previously fled to Kenya.

“There are significant urban population movements from (Somalia’s) Hiran and Middle Shabelle regions to Kenya,” UN Under-Secretary-General Valerie Amos told reporters at the world body’s headquarters in New York.

In addition to urging greater assistance for the Somalis living in crowded refugee camps, Ms Amos, who also serves as the UN’s emergency relief coordinator, called on the Kenyan government to address the displacement of a portion of its own population.

She said it was imperative that the remaining 30,000 Kenyans displaced by the violence following the 2007 elections be resettled prior to the next national elections.

Ms Amos, who visited Kenya and Somalia earlier this month, warned that the sub-region’s drought was threatening food security in northern and eastern Kenya as well as in large parts of Somalia.

“We will continue to work with the Kenyan government to strengthen its preparedness and enhance its resilience to shocks,” she said.

In Eastern Province, the government has released thousands of bags of relief food and seven water tankers to 30 districts to help combat the drought.

A Kenya Red Cross drought assessment report showed that about 150,000 people in the upper eastern region are at risk of starving.

Provincial commissioner Clare Omolo said the region received 50,500 bags of maize, 14,000 bags of beans and 7,950 cartons of cooking oil to cushion the residents against hunger.

Speaking during the launch of the APHIA Plus project aimed at improving the health of local communities on Sunday, Ms Omolo called on local leaders to liaise with district commissioners in ensuring the relief food was available to the needy.

“Due to inadequate rainfall and delays in the onset of the October-November short rains, there was total crop failure, more so in arid and semi-arid areas,” she said at an Embu hotel.

The most affected districts are Chalbi, Moyale, Laisamis, Sololo, North Horr, Marsabit Central, Garbatulla and Isiolo.

Ms Omolo said that the government would start buying livestock, which the Kenya Red Cross would slaughter and distribute to those in urgent need of food.