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Demand outstrips supply in world’s biggest aid camp

24 August 2011

by Ed Beavan

THE POPULATION in the Dadaab refugee camp in eastern Kenya is estimated to have swelled to about 450,000. About 1000 refugees continue to arrive each day at the camp, which is the world’s biggest, as the drought in the Horn of Africa goes on.

The associate director of World Vision in Kenya, Tobias Oloo, visited the camp last week. It opened in 1991 and was intended to hold 90,000 people. He said that a stream of weak and malnourished refugees were still flooding into the camp, mainly from Somalia.

World Vision, in partnership with Shelter­Box, has donated 5000 tents. Mr Oloo said that they were also providing new arrivals with kits containing cooking utensils and mosquito nets. “No one knows the exact number [of refugees], but it’s more than 400,000. People keep coming in. There are many women and children who are sick and tired and malnourished. Some have TB.

“There are a number of ‘push’ and ‘pull’ factors. One ‘push’ factor is the conflict in Somalia, while the ‘pull’ factor is the security and food on offer in Kenya.”

He said it was vital that the root causes of the disaster be addressed by aid agencies and world governments. A political solution to the conflict in Somalia needed to be a priority, and food-security programmes needed to be improved in the region, so that “we do not find ourselves in this situation again.”

One of the recipients of a tent was Baaf Guled, aged 50, his wife, Mimino, and their six children, who had endured a 12-day trek from Mogadishu to get to Dadaab. He said that he had left Somalia because of the violence and hunger, and was relieved to receive shelter, having feared for his family be­cause of mosquitoes and the threat of malaria.

Mike Pattison, World Vision’s shelter expert, said that 5000 of the tents would protect people not only from the elements but from snakes and insects. They would, however, constitute only 12 per cent of the 40,000 needed to meet the present demand at the camp.

The International Develop­ment Secretary, Andrew Mitchell, was in Mogadishu, the capital of Somalia, for a brief visit last week. He said that 400,000 children were at risk of starvation in the country. He pledged a further £29 million in aid from the UK.

Aid distribution is still being hampered by the Islamic militant group al-Shabaab, which controls many parts of the country outside Mogadishu.

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