Somali Refugees Fleeing Drought Flock to Kenyan Camps

U.N. refugee chief Filippo Grandi meets refugees in the Dadaab refugee camp in northern Kenya. The camp has received 50,000 new arrivals from Somalia, where they fled drought and violence.

The drought ravaging parts of Somalia and northern Kenya has forced at least 50,000 people to seek refuge at camps located in Kenya’s north Eastern region, the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) said Tuesday.

The Dadaab camp near the Kenyan border with Somalia, has received an additional 20,000 refugees uprooted by the dire humanitarian situation obtaining in the region, the UNHCR said.

The head of the UN Refugee Agency, Fillippo Grandi, who visited the affected refugees to assess the impact of the drought, said Somalia required new approach to manage the food security and persistent drought there.

Grandi said Somalia needs continued humanitarian assistance to avert hunger and deaths but long-term approaches are required to avert over-dependence on aid.  

“We need to continue pumping in humanitarian assistance that is the only way at the moment but also we need to intensify this resilience,” Grandi said at a press conference in Nairobi after a visit to Kenya and Somalia. 

“If your livelihood is livestock and is so much a threat, maybe living off livestock is not viable anymore. What do these people do? Do they become farmers which is not their lifestyle? It’s a very complex issue but we need to look at sustainability otherwise, this cycle will go on forever and humanitarian assistance can save lives but cannot resolve the problem? So I think it will take some time and some effort.”

In recent months aid agencies have raised alarm over the humanitarian crisis in Somalia. The crisis is slowly being contained but agencies warn the gains could be reversed if the humanitarian efforts stalls.

The World Food Program said it has scaled up assistance in Somalia reaching more than four million people with life-saving food and nutrition assistance.

Grandi said the needs are enormous in the country, so humanitarian efforts must continue.

“It’s a matter of continuing this effort and working on immediate response and making it more sustainable but the two have to happen simultaneously. The other concern is security because this is not just famine, hunger and drought. It’s also insecurity still in big pockets of the country.”

The aid officials hoped the government of Somalia’s offensive against Al Shabaab in Central regions would succeed and address the insecurity which has blocked aid agencies from reaching millions.

In Somalia, Grandi met president Hassan Sheikh Mohamud and discussed how lives could be saved. Grandi traveled to Galkayo to meet the victims of drought who lost livestock and were forced trek for days to reach displacement camps.

“These families are the least responsible for global warming, yet they are being hit the hardest. It is tragic and shameful, and the world should not look away,” he said.

The UNHCR says the drought has displaced more than one million people and another half a million displaced due to conflict and insecurity.