The head of the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) said yesterday that drought-ridden Somalia was the world's “worst humanitarian disaster” after meeting refugees who had endured unspeakable hardship to reach the world's largest refugee camp.
The Kenyan camp, near Dadaab, is overflowing with tens of thousands of newly-arrived refugees forced into the camp by the parched landscape in the region where Somalia, Ethiopia and Kenya meet.
The World Food Programme estimates that 10m people already need humanitarian aid. The UN Children's Fund estimates that more than two million children are malnourished and in need of life-saving action.
Antonio Guterres, the head of UNHCR, who visited Dadaab yesterday, appealed to the world to supply the massive support needed by the thousands of refugees coming to the camp each week. More than 380,000 refugees now live there.
In Dadaab, Mr Guterres spoke to a Somali mother who lost three of her children during her 35-day walk to reach the camp. He said Dadaab holds “the poorest of the poor and the most vulnerable of the vulnerable”.
Mr Guterres, who is on a tour of the region, said the influx of refugees was overwhelming the UNHCR and other international and local aid organisations. “Nothing can compare to what we have seen this month,” he said.
The DEC (Disaster Emergency Committee), the body representing the UK's 14 leading aid agencies, said acute malnutrition has reached 37% in some parts of north east Kenya.
It also said child refugees from Somalia are dying of causes related to malnutrition, either during the journey or very shortly after arrival at aid camps.