Aid groups in Kenya say tens of thousands of additional refugees from Somalia are expected to arrive in coming weeks, as Somalia and the Horn of Africa deal with an ongoing severe drought and hunger.
The International Rescue Committee says 55,000 Somali refugees already have arrived in Kenya’s Dadaab camps over the past year. The camps in northern Kenya are currently home to about 230,000 people, most of them Somalis who fled conflict and hard living conditions over the past few decades.
The IRC advocacy manager in Kenya, Jamin Kusuania, said the camps are now receiving drought victims who urgently need food and medicine.
“We are receiving persons who have been affected by the drought, which is synonymous with malnutrition. We are receiving malnutrition persons coming to Dadaab. We have noted incidences of measles being found among the new arrivals coming into Dadaab,” Kusuania said. “As IRC and others, we continue to support through nutrition, through health provision to these particular groups of people.”
Agencies are expecting another 60,000 arrivals over the next six months.
Amina Ali, in her 30s, is one of the recent arrivals. She lived in Dadaab previously, went back to Somalia in 2017, but returned when life there became unbearable for her young family.
Ali said she fled the port city of Kismayo in southern Somalia after losing her goats to drought. She said she feels safe in the camp and got some food, but added there is not enough support for her and her seven children.
“I still live with people. I don’t have my own shelter. My children are at home, and they are yet to go to school. We have many needs and would like to get more assistance,” she said.
Those living in the camp face overcrowding, poor sanitation and inadequate access to essential services. The camp has recorded cases of measles and cholera, and aid agencies fear the crowded conditions will encourage further spread of diseases.
Kusuania said the humanitarian needs are increasing and more assistance is needed to care for the refugees in the camp.
“Support is needed to be able to provide nutrition to the children and the pregnant and lactating mothers finding themselves in the country. Support is needed to be able to ensure that there is adequate shelter for this particular category of people. Support is needed to ensure food is available to this category of persons, including human resources, to be able to provide psychosocial and [gender-based violence] response to the population we are seeing arriving into the country,” Kusuania said.
Like the rest of East Africa, Kenya is facing a severe drought, which has made more than 4 million people food insecure.
Aid agencies warn of famine in Somalia if there is not enough support to increase humanitarian assistance.