Life grim in Somali camps that Kenya wants to shut

Thu Feb 23, 2012 1:32pm EST
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By Noor Ali

DADAAB, Kenya (Reuters) - Nadifo Farah is traumatized by the death of her baby as she fled Somalia, but she has no time to grieve as she battles to keep her five other children alive in the world's biggest refugee complex.

Farah hauled her family across the border into Kenya in December, two months after U.N. agencies suspended non-lifesaving activities, including the registration of new arrivals, after two aid workers were kidnapped from the camp.

Kenya has borne the brunt of Somalia's exodus over the last two decades. Among the 463,000 registered Somalis crammed into congested camps around the town of Dadaab, 10,000 are third-generation refugees born in the camp to refugee parents also born there.

While the U.N.'s refugee agency (UNHCR) says Farah is still entitled to emergency food rations, the reality is many who are not registered are turned away from food distributions, camp elders said.

"I was sent away twice from a distribution in Dagahaley," Farah said, referring to one of Dadaab's three sprawling camps.

"Then I tried again at another of the camps, Ifo, where the distribution committee chased me away because I didn't have a food ration card," she said, surrounded by a mass of makeshift tents in an area known as Bulo Bacte or 'carcass dump'.

Farah fled the southern Somali town of Afmadow, afraid of a bloody assault on the rebel stronghold by Kenyan troops who moved into Somalia days after two Spanish aid workers were kidnapped from Dadaab.

Unable to register now, new arrivals are forced to settle on the camp's outskirts, where they are vulnerable to bandits.   Continued...