Humanitarian Crisis Imminent in Somali Refugee Camp

For Immediate Release

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Alun McDonald, Regional Media & Communications Officer, on +254 736 666 663

Humanitarian Crisis Imminent in Somali Refugee Camp

WASHINGTON - Hundreds of thousands of
Somali refugees will face a humanitarian emergency this year, unless
urgent steps are taken to deal with a serious public health crisis
unfolding in the Dadaab refugee camp in northern Kenya, international
agency Oxfam warned in a new report issued today.

The Kenyan government, international donors and aid agencies must all immediately take action to address the crisis, Oxfam said.

Dadaab
is one of the world's largest concentrations of refugees. Its
population now stands at more than 250,000, almost three times its
intended size. Up to 100,000 more people are likely to arrive by the
end of this year, as Somalis continue to flee violence and seek refuge
in Kenya.

A new Oxfam assessment
of the humanitarian situation in the camp has uncovered a serious
public health crisis caused by a lack of basic services, severe
overcrowding and a chronic lack of funding. More than 20 cases of
cholera have been confirmed. Kenya recently closed its border with
Somalia, yet refugees continue to arrive daily and the border closure
is actually exacerbating the crisis, the report found.

Philippa Crosland-Taylor, head of Oxfam GB in Kenya, said: "Conditions
in Dadaab are dire and need immediate attention. People are not getting
the aid they are entitled to. Half of the people in the camp do not
have access to enough water. Women and children - who make up over half
Dadaab's population - very rarely have access to adequate latrines."

Oxfam's report recommended that:

  • The Kenyan government should re-open the Kenya-Somalia border, and provide additional land near to Dadaab for a new site to ease the overcrowding;
  • International donor governments must urgently respond to UNHCR's appeals for more funding to deal with the crisis;
  • The UN and aid agencies should ensure that recent increased efforts to address the crisis are sustained, and that local Kenyan communities near Dadaab are not neglected.

The
Kenyan government's decision to close the border has not stopped
refugees coming - but it has made conditions much worse for them and
their Kenyan neighbors, and has added to health risks in the camp.
Reception centers on the border run by the UN High Commission for
Refugees (UNHCR) used to give health checks to new refugees. However,
as a result of the border closure, these centers were closed down,
meaning new arrivals no longer receive the health checks before
reaching the camp. In such overcrowded conditions, even a single case
of cholera can spread rapidly.

Crosland-Taylor said:

"Until
there is a lasting peace in Somalia, many more people will continue to
flee. The Kenyan government must address this humanitarian crisis,
rather than ignoring it. An open but managed border will allow Kenya to
meet its legitimate security concerns, but also allow refugees to
receive the assistance to which they are entitled under international
law."

The situation in Dadaab has led to increased tensions
between Somali refugees and the local Kenyan community, particularly
over rights to land and resources such as water and trees.

Philippa Crosland-Taylor said:

"Dadaab
is in a very poor region and the needs of the local communities must
not be forgotten. More funds are needed for aid agencies to help local
people as well as refugees. Scarce natural resources have to be shared
by everyone, and projects are needed to explore alternative
technologies and ways of ensuring that those resources are managed in
an equitable and sustainable way."

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Oxfam International is a confederation of 13 like-minded organizations working together and with partners and allies around the world to bring about lasting change. Oxfam works directly with communities and that seeks to influence the powerful to ensure that poor people can improve their lives and livelihoods and have a say in decisions that affect them.

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