The searing drought has pushed at least 2,000 Somalis across the Kenya border and into the Dadaab refugee complex in recent months, the United Nations reports.
Preliminary information “suggests that more may already be on their way,” the UN humanitarian aid agency added in an update on the response to the drought in Somalia.
Close to 100 of the new arrivals in Dadaab were among refugees who had returned to Somalia from the camps in Kenya as part of a voluntary repatriation initiative, the UN noted.
“Drought-related displacement continues to rise almost exponentially,” the agency said.
More than half-a-million Somalis have been forced from their homes since November, with 52 per cent of the total displacement occurring in just the past month, the UN reported on Friday.
A mass movement of hungry and thirsty Somalis into Dadaab would threaten to stall or even reverse the progress made in the past two years in voluntarily repatriating refugees.
Nearly 60,000 Somalis have returned home from Dadaab since the start of the voluntary programme in December 2014.
And the pace has quickened.
The UN said 20,515 Dadaab residents have been supported so far this year in returning to Somalia. Another 21,940 are currently registered for voluntary repatriation, the UN added.
The total population of the Dadaab complex stood at 256,192 as of March 15, the UN refugee agency reported.
The Kenyan government had threatened to shut down the Dadaab camps next month due to security concerns. But the High Court has blocked that move, at least temporarily.
The UN refugee agency has been conducting “go-and-see” visits whereby selected groups of Dadaab residents travel to Kismayu and Baidoa for a few days to assess whether living conditions there are conducive to returning.
At a March 15 debriefing session involving participants in go-and-see tours, refugees reported, according to the UN, that significant improvements had occurred in Kismayu since the first of the visits in 2014.
In Baidoa, however, “there were more challenges due mainly to the drought whose impact was more felt in this town,” a UN update stated.