Doctors warn of "humanitarian emergency" at Kenya refugee camp
Feb 16, 2012, 11:33 GMT
Nairobi/Mogadishu - Hundreds of thousands of Somalis in Kenya living in the world's largest refugee camp are experiencing a 'humanitarian emergency' because of the scaling back of aid work, the charity Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) said on Thursday.
Meanwhile, thousands of internally displaced people fled fighting outside the Somali capital Mogadishu as African Union forces battled Islamist group al-Shabaab, whose five-year insurgency has added to the refugee crisis.
The sprawling Dadaab complex in northern Kenya mostly hosts Somalis who have fled conflict and drought in their homeland. Built in the 1990s to host just 90,000 people, Dadaab is now home to nearly 470,000 refugees.
'Refugees are paying the price for a conflict they are trying to escape and are at risk of becoming victims of the system that should assist them,' MSF said, in a criticism of the United Nations and Kenyan government, who run the camp.
'The health of refugees is at risk of deteriorating rapidly while humanitarian aid agencies are struggling to provide meaningful assistance on an ongoing basis,' the group said.
MSF runs hospitals and clinics in the camp. Two of its employees were kidnapped last year from Dadaab, and they remain in captivity.
At the height of international attention on Somalia's drought last summer, humanitarian operations in the camp were increased. But since October, the medical charity says, relief work has been in decline.
While the UN said Somalia saw a good harvest in recent weeks, reducing food shortages, the humanitarian situation in the Horn of Africa nation is still dire.
Conflict has exacerbated the humanitarian situation, and thousands who had fled the drought were this week once again forced to uproot amid heavy fighting.
African Union troops, known as AMISOM, backing the government in Somalia have recently begun moving outside Mogadishu for the first time, and on Wednesday began an assault against the insurgents along the Afgoye Road, a major artery leading from the capital.
'The advance was limited to capturing ... two tall buildings used by al-Shabaab to shoot at AMISOM,' force spokesman Paddy Ankunda told dpa. 'We also captured Alijanale hills and this has helped to reduce any threats that could be target airplanes landing at the airport.'
Amal Abdullahi a mother of three, said she and thousands others fled the battles.
'It was very hard to remain at our makeshift shelter in Elasha Biyaha (a town outside Mogadishu) because mortars were flying everywhere in the recent clashes,' she told dpa.
Somalia has been caught in a civil war for over 20 years and millions of people depend on handouts to survive. Tens of thousands of civilians are estimated to have died in the crossfire.
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