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Kenya hosts close to 600,000 refugees: UN

20 August 2014, 09:25

Nairobi - The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) on Tuesday announced that Ethiopia has overtaken Kenya to become the largest refugee-hosting country in Africa, sheltering 629,718 refugees as of the end of July.

UNHCR said the conflict in South Sudan, which erupted mid-December last year, has sent 188,000 refugees into Ethiopia since the beginning of 2014.

At present, there are 247,000 South Sudanese refugees in the country, followed by Somalis (245,000) and Eritreans (99,000). Over the last seven months, nearly 15,000 Eritreans and more than 3,000 Somalis also arrived in Ethiopia.

The UN refugee agency noted Kenya, in comparison, is host to 575,334 registered refugees and asylum-seekers.

"Together with the Ethiopian government and other partners, we are providing protection and humanitarian aid in 23 refugee camps and five transit sites around the country," UNHCR spokesman Adrian Edwards told a press conference in Geneva.

He added in recent weeks heavy rain has flooded several low-lying camps and sites. Some 10,000 refugees have been hit by flooding. Many tents and shelters are under water and latrines have collapsed.

He noted this is a serious health concern and threatens to undermine gains made in preventing the outbreak of water-borne diseases. Refugees have pitched tents on higher camp roads.

"We are working with our partners to drain the accumulated rainwater into a nearby small stream as quickly as possible,” said Edwards, adding that the rainy season set to last until October.

To work with the government at the federal and regional level, the UN agency said it will identify additional sites that are less susceptible to flooding.

South Sudan's crisis has caused massive displacement internally and into neighboring countries. As of mid-August, 1.8 million South Sudanese had been forcibly displaced, of whom almost 1.3 million are internally displaced and more than 575,000 were refugees fled to neighboring countries.

- Xinhua

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