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Kenya Humanitarian Update May 2003

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Overview
The government has announced an intention to look for external experts to help harness flood waters especially in the Lake Victoria Basin. Holland and China have been suggested as countries which could be approached for expertise owing to their success in controlling water.

The government wants to build dams in Budalang'i, Busia, to control flooding. But the country does not have a free hand because the Nile Basin Treaty binds countries not to dam waters in the catchment area owing to its importance as source of River Nile.

The Government is in discussions with other countries to come up with a solution that will be beneficial to all players because the area suffers from perennial flooding that causes loss of lives and destruction of property. Apart from the floods and drought that is still persistent in some parts of the country, the country has been engaging in constitutional reforms and an intensified war on corruption. Approximately 103,000 people are expected to benefit from food for work projects by the World Food Pro-gramme and Kenyan Government. The projects will distribute a total of 4,018 MT of food aid (cereals, pulses, and oil). The food aid is released to the beneficiaries based on the amount of work accomplished. By the end of May, the beneficiaries had received 450 MT of food. A short rains assessment by the Kenya Food Security Group on nutritional status of children in Turkana, Baringo and West Pokot indicate that while the situation in West Pokot is stable, there has been a marked deterioration in the malnutrition rates in Turkana and Baringo. Global Acute Malnutrition rates in Turkana have increased to between 18-37% from rates of 11-21% during the same time in 2002. Focus is also shifting to areas that are "grain basket" for the country. The Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock Development (MoALD) has already revised downward the predicted long-rains maize out-put, from a long-term average of 2.2 million MT to 1.8 million MT.

The MoALD has reiterated that current national stocks are unlikely to meet domestic needs beyond the end of June 2003. The two-month delay in the start of the 2003 long-rains season in southwestern areas implies that the bulk of the first maize crop will be harvested toward the end of August instead of in late July. Response to displaced population has been very encouraging and the Kenya Red Cross and Office of the President have been the main bodies co-ordinating security. The country security awareness was put under the spotlight following the sighting of an Al-Queda operative in Mombasa. Some Western governments closed their embassies and Britain suspended direct flights into Nairobi. In addition, several countries issued travel warnings on non-essential travel to Kenya which has in turn adversely affected tourism and is likely to trigger massive loss of jobs in this sector.

UNHCR repatriates Somali refugees

A first group of some 2,880 Somali refugees from Dadaab and Kakuma camps in Kenya have returned to northeast Somalia. The first group of 50 refugees was taken to Gal-kayo, north-east Somalia, aboard a UNHCR-chartered aircraft.

The UN refugee agency expects to assist the return by air of some 300 refugees to Bosasso, on the shores of the Gulf of Aden, and to Galkayo. At the end of the operation, some 2,880 refugees will be repatriated. The group is part of 6,000 refugees who had signed up for voluntary repatriation in 2001. A combination of funding difficulties and security problems in Somalia hindered their return. Before leaving the Dadaab refugee camps, northeast Kenya, the returning refugees received an assistance package consisting of basic supplies such as plastic sheeting to cover their tukuls (the dome-shaped shelter used by Somali communities), blankets, cooking utensils and jerry-cans. Each family also received a transport allowance for their onward trip to their places of origin. On arrival in Bosasso and Galkayo, they will receive a nine months' food ration from World Food Programme. In Puntland, UNHCR is helping to reintegrate returning refugees into the community by sponsoring a number of health, education and income-generating projects that cost the UN refugee agency more than $500,000 a year. These include health centres, a primary school, and fishing projects to export the sea's riches to the Middle East. UNHCR is now assessing the needs of the returnees and plans to set up further projects worth an additional $250,000.

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