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Somali Refugees Trapped in Camps 'Barely Fit for Humans' - Oxfam

Frank Nyakairuq

Displaced children eating meals in a camp outside Mogadishu, Somalia, Thursday, Sept, 3, 2009. The camp which has recently opened feeds more than three hundred people daily. (AP Photo/Farah Abdi Warsameh)

NAIROBI - Hundreds of thousands of Somalis fleeing unrest are now living in camps that Oxfam said on Thursday were horrifically overcrowded and unfit for humans.

Two years of Islamist insurgency have created one of the world's worst humanitarian crises in the Horn of Africa nation, with one million internally displaced people and thousands more fleeing across borders to Ethiopia, Kenya and Djibouti.

Oxfam said poor sanitation and little access to basic services such as water and medicine have created a public health emergency in camps.

"Somalis flee one of the world's most brutal conflicts and a desperate drought, only to end up in unimaginable conditions in camps that are barely fit for humans," said Robbert Van den Berg Oxfam International's spokesman for the Horn of Africa.

"Hundreds of thousands of children are affected, and the world is abandoning the next generation of Somalis when they most need our help. Why does it seem like you matter less in this world if you are from Somalia?" said Van den Berg.

After 19 years of civil conflict in Somalia there is no sign of peace with foreign militants joining Islamist rebels seeking to topple a new government.

Kenya is host to Dadaab refugee camp, which the U.N. says is the world's largest refugee camp. Located 100 km from the border with Somalia, Dadaab's three main camps - Dagahaley, Ifo and Hagadera - are a large settlement of mainly flimsy huts and tents on sandy scrubland.

Set up in 1991, the camp was designed for 90,000 refugees but now houses 275,000, mainly Somalis. Aid agencies expect this number to keep increasing, and are seeking more space from the Kenyan government.

"The Kenyan government has repeatedly promised to provide more land to ease the overcrowding but has so far failed to do so, despite the urgent and critical needs. More pressure from the international community is needed to make it happen," Van den Berg continued.

In Ethiopia's Bokolmayo camp, almost 10,000 people are already in the camp and nearly 1,000 people a month continue to arrive.

"In all three locations - Afgooye, Dadaab and Bokolmayo - the services being provided to vulnerable and desperate people are far below international standards," said Van den Berg.

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