'Share out' refugees, urges relief agency
Posted Friday, June 15 2012 at 10:16
A relief agency has called on more countries to ‘share-out’ Somalia refugees to avoid overcrowding at the Dadaab refugee camp in northern Kenya.
The Doctors without Borders (MSF) Thursday warned that the camp is already overstretched and can no longer admit any more refugees.
Dr Elena Velilla, the Country Representative for MSF in Kenya, said the current system of expanding camps to accommodate more refugees has failed and could lead to another humanitarian crisis as witnessed in 2011.
“Even though people are fed, Dadaab is no longer a refuge. It is clear the current model of the camps is not working,” she said.
“How many more nutritional crises or measles epidemics will it take before we start looking for a solution?”
On Wednesday, MSF, which runs a 350-bed hospital at the camp, published a statement ‘Dadaab: The Shadows of Lives’ in which the organisation argued for a new solution to the escalating number of refugees.
“One year after the humanitarian crisis of 2011, malnutrition and mortality rates have dropped to pre-emergency levels, says MSF.
“But the situation in the camps remains unacceptable, and – without significant change – this pattern of health crises followed by periods of relative calm will continue,” said the paper released on Thursday.
Last year, drought forced more refugees to come into the camp from Somalia, seeking refuge and food. The camp is considered by the UN agency for refugees (UNHCR) as the most populous in the world.
It was opened in the early 1990s to accommodate Somalis running away from the civil war that broke out after the fall of despot Siad Barre.
However, the country has remained chaotic since then, meaning more refugees keep coming. Currently, the camp is estimated to have at least 500,000 people. MSF said new refugees have been trying to find accommodation by sharing old shanties.
“A refugee camp is not a long-term solution,” said Dr Velilla. “Thousands of vulnerable people have already suffered too much. As long as no action is taken, the Somali refugees will continue to pay the price.”
MSF said the camp can no longer guarantee safety because the “security situation is getting worse, affecting services and the provision of aid”.
In October last year, two employees of MSF, Montserrat Serra and Blanca Thiebaut, were among a number of foreigners who were kidnapped on Kenyan soil. The two were on assignment at the camp when bandits attacked.
The incident forced some of the agencies to scale down their operations.
MSF, for instance, announced it would only be dealing with emergency cases. The agency is now suggesting that more countries accept to accommodate refugees and not just Kenya.