UN: Somalia is worst humanitarian disaster

Head of UNHCR appeals for “massive support” over drought affecting about 10 million people in the Horn of Africa

Published on AlJazeera, Source: Al Jazeera and agencies, July 11, 2011.

Head of UNHCR appeals for “massive support” over drought affecting about 10 million people in the Horn of Africa. The head of the United Nations refugee agency has described the situation in drought-hit Somalia as the “worst humanitarian disaster” in the world, after meeting with those affected at the Dadaab refugee camp in Kenya. The camp, located in the northeast and the world’s largest in the world, is overflowing with tens of thousands of refugees from Somalia, Ethiopia and within Kenya.  

Antonio Guterres, the head of the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR), visited the camp on Sunday, appealing for “massive support” from the international community for the more than 380,000 people estimated to be living in Dadaab. “I have no doubt that in today’s world, Somalia corresponds to the worst humanitarian disaster. I have never seen in a refugee camp people coming in such desperate conditions,” he told Al Jazeera. “I saw a mother that had lost three of her children on the way here.” Guterres said that those at the camp were “the poorest of the poor and the most vulnerable of the vulnerable”.

The UNHCR chief is on a tour of the region in order to highlight the plight of those affected by the drought. The World Food Programme estimates that more than 10 million people are already in need of humanitarian aid, with the UN Children’s Fund estimating at least two million children are suffering from malnourishment. Those children are in need of lifesaving action, the UN says. On Thursday, Guterres visited the Ethiopian camp of Dollo Ado. “The mortality rates we are witnessing are three times the level of emergency ceilings,” he said. “The level of malnutrition of the children coming in is 50 per cent. That is enough to explain why a very high level of mortality is inevitable.”

Thousands flee: … (full text).

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