NEW YORK (August 5, 2011)—UNICEF is ramping up operations to meet the rising humanitarian needs of Somali children and familiesin the Dadaab refugee camps and surrounding host communities near the Kenya-Somalia border.
With an influx of new arrivals straining resources in the camps and host communities, UNICEF is delivering lifesaving support in nutrition, health, child protection, and water, sanitation and hygiene.
Somali refugees arrive in Dadaab at an average rate of 1,300 per day, having survived the long trek from Somalia. 80%of them are women and children. The total population of the three camps near Dadaab is now more than 400,000. The population in the three camps in Dadaab is now equivalent to being the third largest city in Kenya.
Nearly half the children who make it to the camps from southern Somalia are malnourished. Reports of children dying along the way from Somalia or just as they arrive at the camps are disturbingly common.
"As they make the treacherous journey from Somalia to the Dadaab camp, many parents are forced into an unbearable choice of which child to feed. No parent should ever face that decision," said President and CEO of the U.S. Fund for UNICEF Caryl Stern. "UNICEF is using every means at its disposal to reach these children. Just a small donation can mean the difference between life and death."
UNICEF has increased supplies of ready-to-use therapeutic foodto hospitals and nutrition stabilization centers in the Dadaab camps and surrounding host communities for the treatment of malnutrition in children under five.
UNICEF is also working with local health authorities to establish a therapeutic feeding center in the border community of Liboi to ensure that families crossing into Kenya have access to lifesaving health and nutrition services as quickly as possible.
UNICEF has dispatched medicine to the health center in Liboi, including health kits sufficient to support about 10,000 people, for use by the host community and for the treatment of refugees crossing into Kenya.
"Many Somali families who cross into Kenya at Liboi do not realize they must walk another 100 kilometers before arriving at the refugee camps in Dadaab," says Olivia Yambi, UNICEF Kenya Representative. "The health of some malnourished children crossing at Liboi is so precarious that they simply cannot wait until they get to Dadaab for treatment. The positioning of health and nutritional supplies close to the border will save children's lives that might otherwise have been lost on the long journey to Dadaab."
UNICEF is also supporting integrated campaigns for measles and polio immunization, deworming and Vitamin A supplementation, in Dadaab and the host communities in Liboi, Garissa and part of Wajir. More than 200,000 children under five will be reached through the immunization campaign over the coming weeks. More than 100,000 children have already been vaccinated.
"Malnutrition can weaken a child's immune system, increasing their susceptibility to infectious diseases like measles and polio,” says Ibrahim Conteh, UNICEF Dadaab Emergency Coordinator. “We are acting now because these diseases can spread very quickly in overcrowded conditions like we have now in the camps.”
Access to clean water and sanitation is essential for securing the health and well-being of children. In Dadaab, UNICEF is facilitating access to clean water for 22,000 refugees on the outskirts of the camps by providing 1,600 jerry cans and two water bladders. UNICEF is also working with partners to install 16 water points for refugees walking from the border along three major routes to Dadaab.
In education, UNICEF is planning to construct 146 new learning centers/classrooms in the camps to accommodate newly-arrived refugees and alleviate congestion in pre-existing schools. These centers will be situated in camp outskirts where many newly-arrived refugees live.
Prepositioned supplies have been used to address the influx of children in the camps, including 20 temporary learning spaces/classrooms, 100 education kits to meet the needs of 5,000 students, 60,000 Somali text books for children, and 64 recreation kits for 6,400 children and young people.
UNICEF and Save the Children have also reached more than 2,000 children in the camps over the past week through the provision of child-friendly spaces. UNICEF is participating in a UNHCR-led assessment of gender-based violence in collaboration with partners in light of the expansion of support to the camps and the host community.
Across the region, UNICEF estimates it will need nearly $315 million over the next six months to scale up operations to reach children in the Horn of Africa's drought-affected areas with emergency and preventative assistance. The focus is on providing integrated interventions addressing aspects of a child's survival and development.
UNICEF has saved more children's lives than any other humanitarian aid organization in the world. Working in more than 150 countries, UNICEF provides children with health and immunizations, clean water, nutrition, education, emergency and disaster relief, and more. The U.S. Fund for UNICEF supports UNICEF's work through fundraising, advocacy, and education in the United States.
UNICEF is at the forefront of efforts to reduce child mortality worldwide. There has been substantial progress: the annual number of under-five deaths dropped from 13 million in 1990 to 8.1 million in 2009. But still, 22,000 children die each day from preventable causes. Our mission is to do whatever it takes to make that number zero by giving children the essentials for a safe and healthy childhood.
For additional information, please contact:
Susannah Masur, U.S. Fund for UNICEF, 212.880.9146, (m) 646.428.5010, firstname.lastname@example.org
Kiní Schoop, U.S. Fund for UNICEF, 212.922.2634, email@example.com