More help pledged as 1,500 tired refugees keep streaming in daily

Wednesday July 27 2011

Newly arrived Somali refugees wait outside the registration center at Ifo camp in Daadab refugee camp July 10,2011 North Eastern Kenya.

AFP PHOTO/SIMON MAINA Newly arrived Somali refugees wait outside the registration center at Ifo camp in Daadab refugee camp July 10,2011 North Eastern Kenya.  

By NYAMBEGA GISESA [email protected]

Hundreds of refugees who have escaped hunger benefitted from the help of the Qatar government and Qatar-based non-governmental organizations officials who visited the Dadaab refugee camp on Wednesday.

Officials of the Qatar government and the Sheikh Thani Abdullah Foundation for Humanitarian Services toured the Daabab refugee camp that is hosting over 400,000 people on Tuesday to access the situation and help in mobilising Arab nations to aid the refugees.

“This is our first visit and we have brought 15 tonnes of relief food, but our main aim is to access the situation on the ground and mobilise our country and other Arabic nations to help,” the head of the delegation Jassim Sady Al-shammary said.

Many who are spending cold nights as they wait to officially gain refugee status cried as they narrated to the Nation their close escape from hunger in Somalia and also requested the Kenyan government to open the newly constructed Ifo II Camp.

“Even here our children are dying. Please allow us to use the camp,” Farhiya Sako said.

Although Prime Minister Raila Odinga opened the new camp, refugees who risk dying of hunger in the scorching sun are yet to start using the facility after Internal Security Minister George Saitoti said the government was not keen to expand the camps as they were likely to be infiltrated by Somali terror group al Shabaab.

Immigration minister Otieno Kajwang’ who has said that Somalis escaping from starvation were allowed to cross to Kenya in search of help has blamed the failure to open the camp on security chiefs and officials in President Kibaki’s office.

Ifo II is expected to accommodate 80,000 people. On Tuesday, officials at the Dabaab refugee camp told the Nation that the numbers of refugees coming in from Somalia had increased from 1,000 to about 1,500 daily.

“It’s important that Arabic nations are also coming to the aid of those who are suffering. We have welcomed the Qataris and they have promised to go back and get us more aid,” Bare Shill, the PM’s Special Envoy to Somalia said.

Sangabo Eri, a mother of 10, told the Nation that it took her five days to arrive at Dadaab. “I was lucky to get a truck that was coming this way. The bad thing is that I left eight children back at home without anything to eat,” she said.

“Their father died and I only managed to come with my lastborns to save them from dying from hunger,” she added.

An 80-year-old Suban Salat managed to arrive at the refugee camp despite having fractured her hip. “It’s the last hope I have for living an extra day,” she said through an interpreter.

Already, the US, Australia, United Kingdom, the Netherlands and Italy are among countries that have been supplying relief food to the estimated 10 million starving people in Kenya, Somalia, Ethiopia and Djibouti.

Recently, the UN admitted that the international community had been slow in confronting the drought in the Horn.

The situation at the camp looked terrible. Although designed to hold only 90,000 refugees, over 400,000 people have streamed in.

On Wednesday, hundreds of those coming in lined up to await clearance from the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) to gain refugee status. They were given a packet of biscuits and water for lunch.

“We appreciate anything that we get,” 70-year-old Suban Assin said as she waited to be cleared so as to be issued with sugar, clothing and maize flour.