Kenya asked to open empty refugee camp as crisis worsens

By staff writers
13 Jul 2011

UK-based international development agency Christian Aid has called on the Kenyan government to open a refugee camp that is currently standing empty to cope with the 1,400 new daily arrivals, mostly women and children, fleeing drought and conflict in neighbouring Somalia.

The Ifo II camp, complete with new water tanks, lavatories and health care facilities, was initially built as an overflow for Dadaab, the world’s biggest refugee camp.

Dadaab was designed to shelter 90,000 people, but now has a population of 380,000, with more arriving every day. Ifo II stands unused, however, and the Kenyan government have expressed concerns about the longer term impacts if large of numbers refugees are unable to return home.

The head of Christian Aid’s humanitarian division, Nick Guttmann, who today visited Dadaab, where Christian Aid works through the Lutheran World Federation, commented: "We are grateful for all the Kenyan Government is already doing to help the growing numbers of refugees, and for allowing them enter Kenya without hindrance; but conditions in Dadabb are extremely difficult."

"The numbers arriving are overwhelming and basic services are insufficient. Most people have been walking for weeks on end and are in a very poor state of health," he continued.

"Many only make the very difficult and arduous journey to Dadaab when their last animals have died and they have no other choice. It is essential that the new camp, Ifo II, is opened up as soon as possible as part of the urgent humanitarian response to the worsening situation affecting both those arriving in camps and communities across the region. In the longer term, sustainable solutions must be found," said Mr Guttmann.

Antonio Guterres, head of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, has called the drought, now affecting more than 11 million people in Kenya, Somalia and Ethiopia, "the worst humanitarian crisis in the world today [which is] turning into a human tragedy of unimaginable proportions."

In the UK, Christian Aid is part of the Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC) appeal which has so far raised more than £13 million to help drought victims.

DEC Chief Executive Brendan Gormley declared: "The UK public have donated the equivalent of £1 for each of the 10 million people in need in East Africa. A British pound can provide an emergency food parcel to feed a family in Kenya or Somalia for a week. We want people to know their generosity is making a difference.”

He added: "The more money we raise, the more lives we can save in the short term, and the more help we can give people to rebuild their lives in the long term. It’s vital that people keep giving."

The DEC East Africa Appeal has been presented by actor Jason Isaacs, actor and comedian Lenny Henry, broadcaster and journalist Kate Adie, and actress Fay Ripley.

* The DEC member agencies are ActionAid, Age UK, British Red Cross, CAFOD, CARE International UK, Christian Aid, Concern Worldwide, Islamic Relief, Merlin, Oxfam, Plan UK, Save the Children, Tearfund and World Vision.

To make a donation to the DEC East Africa Crisis Appeal visit http://www.dec.org.uk, call the 24 hour hotline on 0370 60 60 900, donate over the counter at any high street bank or post office, or send a cheque. You can also donate £5 by texting the word CRISIS to 70000.

* To make a postal donation make cheques payable to DEC, and mail to: PO Box 999, London, EC3A 3AA.

* Donations can be made at any high street bank.

* Donate at a Post Office by quoting Freepay 1562.

* To donate £5 by text send the word CRISIS to 70000. The full £5 will go to the DEC East Africa Crisis Appeal. Donors must be 16 years or over and have bill payers permission. Texts are free and donations will be added to the bill.

* Stay up to date with developments in East Africa, the emergency response and the fundraising efforts with the DEC on twitter: http://twitter.com/decappeal or become a fan of Disasters-Emergency-Committee-DEC on Facebook.

[Ekk/3]

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