US lauds Kenya move to host Somali refugees

Refugees at Dadaab camp. A US State Department official on Tuesday praised Kenya for sheltering hundreds of thousands of Somali refugees at the camp. FILE

A US State Department official on Tuesday praised Kenya for sheltering hundreds of thousands of Somali refugees at the Dadaab refugee camp.

Noting that the 420,000 inhabitants of the camps amount to about one percent of Kenya's entire population, Assistant Secretary of State Eric Schwartz said the United States is “very appreciative” of the Kenyan Government's “willingness to continue to provide first asylum to this population".

“We are doing everything we can to assist the government in its efforts to continue to stay the course on this,” Mr Schwartz added in a briefing for reporters following his return from a visit to Kenya with Dr Jill Biden, wife of the US vice president.

The US Agency for International Development announced on Monday it is providing an additional $105 million in assistance to Kenya and other countries in the Horn where drought is causing food shortages or outright famine.

That brings the total US relief effort in the Horn to $560 million — far more than is being supplied by other donors.

Gayle Smith, a special assistant to President Obama, said at Tuesday's briefing that the US is “aggressively reaching out to other countries because this is of a scale that we certainly can't do it alone. We need other countries to step up with us."

The United Nations reports that its appeal for aid to the hungry in the Horn has drawn less than half the needed donations. An additional $1.4 billion is required, the UN says.

USAid is meanwhile warning of worsening drought conditions in the coming months, particularly in northern Kenya.

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