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Relief agencies need bailout

12 July 2012, 10:44

Nairobi - Aid agencies warned on Thursday that a critical shortage of funds was threatening lives in the Dadaab refugee camp complex, the world's largest, risking worsening an already volatile security situation.

"Tens of thousands of lives [are] at risk with money for vital services set to run out in two to three months," said the group of eight aid agencies, including CARE, International Rescue Committee, Oxfam and Save the Children.

A $25m "critical funding shortage" will affect at least 200 000 mainly Somali refugees fleeing war and hunger, they warned.

"Cuts in humanitarian funding are threatening the health, security and livelihoods," the statement read, noting that the giant camp grew by over a third last year, following a mass influx of 160 000 Somalis into Kenya.

While those Somalis were fleeing violence, extreme drought and famine last year, aid workers have warned southern Somalia likely faces a resurgent hunger crisis in coming months due to poor rains and war.

"The current situation of Dadaab is untenable: there are over 465 000 refugees, a volatile security situation and restrictions in the movement of humanitarian workers," the statement added.

Last month, gunmen kidnapped four foreign aid workers in Dadaab, the latest in a string of abductions as well as grenade attacks and bomb explosions in the camp, which lies close to the border with war-torn Somalia.

Insecurity in the region

The aid workers were later freed, but others kidnapped from the camp continue to be held hostage in Somalia.

New shelters for 30 000 people are needed, but the agencies have funding for only 4 000. Without funding, already overcrowded and underequipped health services will decline, while clean water supplies are grossly overstretched.

Women and children risk rape while collecting firewood or walking long distances to use latrines, with sexual violence increasing by 36% in recent months, they added. However, funding for protection has decreased.

While Dadaab was set up over 20 years ago, the needs are "greater than ever before", the agencies added, including Catholic Relief Services, Danish Refugee Council, Lutheran World Federation and Terre des Hommes.

Cutting support could also "worsen insecurity in the region", they added.

"If children are not going to school and if people do not have proper shelter and other services, this has the potential to fuel further militarisation, violence and instability," said Stephen Vaughan, head of CARE Kenya.



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