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February 17, 11

NEWS / UN relief chief warns of humanitarian disaster as drought ravages Somalia and Kenya

17 February 2011 – Severe drought in Somalia has exacerbated the humanitarian crisis in the country with more people becoming internally displaced and others moving into refugee camps across the border in Kenya, as food and water scarcity worsen, the top United Nations humanitarian official said today.

“As we speak, there are significant urban population movements from [Somalia’s] Hiran and Middle Shabelle regions to Kenya,” Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Valerie Amos, who visited Somalia and Kenya earlier this month, told reporters at UN Headquarters.

“People are moving due to the deteriorating living conditions and a lack of a way to make a living. Families are said to be selling their assets, including houses and land, to get by and to facilitate their movement to the refugee camps in Kenya,” said Ms. Amos, who is also the UN Emergency Relief Coordinator.

Malnutrition rates among children, already above emergency levels in Somalia, have risen and an estimated 2.4 million people – 32 per cent of the country’s 7.2 million people – are in need of relief aid as a result of drought and two decades of conflict.

“I cannot stress enough the importance in Somalia of finding a political solution,” said Ms. Amos. “Only that will enable the people of Somalia to live in peace and dignity,” she added. Somalia has been without a fully functioning government since 1991 when the regime led by Muhammad Siad Barre was toppled, plunging the country into protracted factional warfare.

On Kenya, Ms. Amos stressed the need to strengthen the country’s capacity to respond to humanitarian emergencies related to climate change, saying recurring droughts have been the main cause of humanitarian emergencies in the country.

“Disaster risk reduction and recovery must be integrated into humanitarian action to improve preparedness and enhance resilience,” she said.

Ms. Amos urged the Kenyan authorities to resettle an estimated 30,000 people who remain homeless since they were displaced during the post-election violence that rocked the country in 2008.

She also called for increased humanitarian assistance for the nearly 431,000 refugees in Kenya – the vast majority of them from Somalia. More than 300,000 of the refugees live in the Dadaab camps, not far from Kenya’s border with Somalia.

“The world needs to continue to pay attention to what is happening in this part of the world,” said Ms. Amos. “We must always make sure that people understand the human impact of these crises. We must continue to do everything we can to give support to the most vulnerable people in both countries,” she said.




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