Kenya + 1 more

Over eight hundred children a day arriving at Kenyan refugee camp as drought worsens in Somalia

Over eight hundred children a day are fleeing to a refugee camp in Kenya as a devastating drought tightens its grip on neighbouring Somalia and other parts of East Africa.

Save the Children staff working in the Dadaab camps in the northeast of the country say children are arriving from Somalia exhausted, malnourished and severely dehydrated.

The charity has launched an emergency response to help children at risk from East Africa's drought - the worst that many in the region have experienced in decades.

Combined with soaring global food prices, the drought has left thousands of children in parts of Somalia, Kenya and Ethiopia malnourished and millions of others in danger.

Some families say they have walked for over a month through sand and searing heat in search of food, water and shelter after the drought and ensuing food crisis became too much to bear. Many discarded the few possessions they had along the way.

20,000 people have arrived in Dadaab during the last two weeks alone, a sharp rise on the average of four to six thousand refugees per month last year. Around two thirds of the new arrivals are children, according to official UNHCR figures.

Save the Children's Kenya Programme Director Catherine Fitzgibbon said: "We are seeing around 1,300 people arriving in Dadaab every day, some in incredibly dire situations."

"Children have made long journeys in terrifying conditions, often losing their families along the way and arriving at the camps in desperate need of security, health care and a normal life."

"Nearly every child or parent we have spoken to says they are not just fleeing fighting in Somalia - the drought and food crisis are equally perilous to them now."

Mother of four, Fatuma, spent six weeks walking hundreds of kilometres to Dadaab with her family.

Save the Children says her children, the youngest is whom is just three, arrived with no shoes and feet covered in blood, sand and blisters from the trek. "The weather was very harsh. It was so hot, and there was very little shelter," Fatuma said. "Water was a problem. We had a well in my village, but it dried up. Then the one in the next village dried up. We knew it was time to go"

The influx of refugees is placing further strain on space and resources at Dadaab, the world's largest refugee camp, which was originally built to house 90,000 people. The camp is now Kenya's third largest 'town', home to over 360,000 refugees.

With the camps already stretched to capacity, the charity says the number of new people will only make conditions worse for children already living in Dadaab without sufficient food, shelter and protection.

Save the Children has launched an emergency response to help families affected by the East Africa drought. We are treating malnourished children, providing food and water to vulnerable communities and working to help people cope with more frequent droughts caused by a changing climate.

ENDS

Notes to Editors

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For interviews, case studies and more information about the drought in Somalia and Kenya please contact Save the Children's media unit on +44 (0) 207 012 6841 , or out of hours on +44 (0) 7831 650 409.