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Kenya, April 27 (UNHCR) - The UN refugee
agency said Friday that heavy rains have hit Somali refugee camps
in Ethiopia and Kenya, damaging tents, flooding roads and affecting
aid delivery. This comes as the refugee population in southern
Ethiopia swells to more than 150,000.
"In recent weeks, Dollo Ado in southern Ethiopia has been
receiving a weekly average of 450 new Somali refugees. More than
8,500 have been registered so far this year, pushing the refugee
population in the area's five camps past the 150,000 mark," said a
New arrivals continue to cite insecurity inside Somalia as their
reason for flight. In a new development, some refugees say they
fled in fear of possible forced recruitment or military
conscription. Others cite fear of potential revenge killings in the
wake of renewed fighting. These circumstances, combined with last
year's famine in Somalia, eroded many people's traditional coping
mechanisms and forced them to seek asylum across the border.
Meanwhile, heavy rains in mid-April damaged an estimated 700
tents in Dollo Ado. Prior to this, UNHCR staff had begun
identifying refugees whose shelters would need reinforcement
against the rain. They started distributing thousands of plastic
sheets in the different camps two weeks ago, and are providing
replacement tents to a smaller number of families whose shelters
were destroyed by the wind and rain.
The access road to one of the camps, Hilaweyn, has been flooded.
This has slowed down the delivery of services, including water
provision. UNHCR has met partners to work on rehabilitating the
road and maintaining access to the camp. Dollo Ado's dry-weather
airstrip was closed for most of last week, but is currently
serviceable. Road convoys are in place during the rainy season, to
supplement or replace air travel as necessary.
In north-eastern Kenya, the Dadaab refugee complex has also been
affected by the recent rains. Since mid-April, UNHCR has been
distributing plastic sheets and tents to refugees whose shelter has
been damaged or collapsed because of downpour.
"Our staff are standing by to distribute more tarpaulins and
other relief items, prioritizing the most vulnerable refugees and
those whose homes have been affected by the rains. UNHCR and our
partners are also working to mitigate the effects of potential
floods. Needs assessment and plans have been developed, but
budgetary constraints are hindering progress," said the UNHCR
spokesman, Adrian Edwards.
In anticipation of malaria cases, UNHCR's health partners have
started distributing insecticide-treated mosquito nets. Some
220,000 nets will be handed out in the next four weeks in Dadaab's
Ifo, Dagahaley and Hagadera camps, accompanied by demonstrations
and information sessions on their use and care. The Dadaab refugee
complex current hosts more than 460,000 refugees, the majority from
Decades of conflict and drought have driven more than 980,000
Somali refugees into the region, most of them hosted in Kenya,
Yemen and Ethiopia. Another 1.36 million Somalis are internally
displaced within the country.
By Vivian Tan in Nairobi, Kenya