UNHCR says over 80,000 Somalis flee to Kenya amid severe drought

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The United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR) said Tuesday more than 80,000 people have arrived in northeast Kenya’s Dadaab refugee camps due to ongoing insecurity and severe drought.

The UNHCR said the majority of the refugees arrived over the past two years. “More support is needed not only in Kenya but also in Somalia and Ethiopia, where millions of people are facing dire humanitarian conditions as the rains continue to fail,” UNHCR said in a statement.

Despite a recent decrease in the pace of daily arrivals, UNHCR and partners in Dadaab estimate that some 24,000 people have arrived since the end of September.

The UN agency said local communities and refugees already living in the refugee camps in Dadaab have been generously welcoming the new arrivals and sharing the limited resources they have.

“Adequate space in the camps, where the newly arrived are sheltered, is running out, forcing many to reside in makeshift shelters along the outskirts where clean water and sanitation facilities are either grossly insufficient or non-existent.

According to UNHCR, a cholera outbreak has been affecting refugee and host communities with over 350 cases having been identified since the end of October, mainly affecting children.

UNHCR said more resources are urgently required to meet surging needs and to help provide life-saving assistance and protection.

In June, as part of a regional appeal for the Horn of Africa drought response, UNHCR requested 11.1 million U.S. dollars to assist more than 257,000 drought-affected people in Kenya, including 55,000 new arrivals.

So far, the UNHCR said only half of the needed funds to respond to the drought have been received, even as thousands more people have arrived than anticipated.

Some 4.5 million Kenyans, mainly in the northern and eastern parts of the country, are also battling with the effects of the devastating drought, according to the UN.

Many families are struggling with severe food and water shortages, which may worsen in the coming months if the present rainy season fails.

In November, the UN and partners issued a call for 472.6 million dollars to enable aid agencies to respond now and into next year as the impact of the drought in Kenya deepens.

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