Oxfam is publishing a new report on the 250,000 people currently living in appalling conditions in Northern Kenya.
Our report says that "hundreds of thousands of Somali refugees will face a humanitarian emergency this year, unless urgent steps are taken to deal with a serious public health crisis unfolding in the Dadaab refugee camp in northern Kenya."
Dadaab is one of the world's largest concentrations of refugees. Its population now stands at more than 250,000, almost three times its intended size. Up to 100,000 more people are likely to arrive by the end of this year, as Somalis continue to flee violence and seek refuge in Kenya.
Oxfam's new assessment of the humanitarian situation in the camp has uncovered a serious public health crisis caused by a lack of basic services, severe overcrowding and a chronic lack of funding. More than 20 cases of cholera have been confirmed. Kenya recently closed its border with Somalia, yet refugees continue to arrive daily and the border closure is actually exacerbating the crisis, the report found.
My colleague Philippa Crosland-Taylor, head of Oxfam in Kenya:
"Conditions in Dadaab are dire and need immediate attention. People are not getting the aid they are entitled to. Half of the people in the camp do not have access to enough water. Women and children - who make up over half Dadaab's population - very rarely have access to adequate latrines."
Oxfam's report recommended that:
The Kenyan government should re-open the Kenya-Somalia border, and provide additional land near to Dadaab for a new site to ease the overcrowding;
International donor governments must urgently respond to UNHCR's appeals for more funding to deal with the crisis;
The UN and aid agencies should ensure that recent increased efforts to address the crisis are sustained, and that local Kenyan communities near Dadaab are not neglected.
The Kenyan government's decision to close the border has not stopped refugees coming - but it has made conditions much worse for them and their Kenyan neighbours, and has added to health risks in the camp. Reception centres on the border run by the UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) used to give health checks to new refugees. However, as a result of the border closure, these centres were closed down, meaning new arrivals no longer receive the health checks before reaching the camp. In such overcrowded conditions, even a single case of cholera can spread rapidly.
The situation in Dadaab has led to increased tensions between Somali refugees and the local Kenyan community, particularly over rights to land and resources such as water and trees.
Philippa Crosland-Taylor said:
"Dadaab is in a very poor region and the needs of the local communities must not be forgotten. More funds are needed for aid agencies to help local people as well as refugees. Scarce natural resources have to be shared by everyone, and projects are needed to explore alternative technologies and ways of ensuring that those resources are managed in an equitable and sustainable way."
More info on Oxfam's activities: http://www.oxfam.org/pressroom
More info on Oxfam's work in Somalia, click here.