Somali conflict swells refugee camp into world’s largest
DADAAB, Kenya - The bloody conflict in Somalia has created the world’s largest refugee camp, with 500 hungry and exhausted refugees pouring into this wind-swept camp in neighboring Kenya every day, the UN refugee agency said yesterday.
Dadaab, 50 miles from the Somali border, is home to more than 280,000 refugees in an area meant to hold just 90,000.
So far this year, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees has registered nearly 38,000 new arrivals, agency spokesman William Spindler said yesterday. The vast majority of them are fleeing violence and poverty in Somalia as Islamic insurgents try to topple the government.
“It is hunger and destitution that drove us from our country,’’ Abdullahi Abdi Dahir, 50, said earlier this week. He fled Somalia with his wife and their five children, the youngest just 3 months old. “All we need now is something to eat and a shelter for the family.’’
Since May 7, fighting between Islamist insurgent groups and government forces has killed at least 225 people and displaced nearly 170,000 from their homes in the capital, Mogadishu.
The three camps that make up Dadaab were established in 1991 after Somali warlords toppled dictator Siad Barre and carved the country into armed camps ruled by clan law.
The area was never meant to hold so many people, and overcrowding has become a massive problem.
Kenya closed its border in January 2007 to prevent Islamists fleeing Somalia from entering the country, but the closure also has forced refugees to sneak into Kenya.