Appeal for support as Somali refugees flood across Kenyan border

Published: 17 March 2011 17:10 CET

Heavy fighting has recently intensified between the Somali Transitional Federal Government (TFG) soldiers and Al Shabaab militants along the Kenya–Somalia border near the town of Mandera, resulting in the movement of 11,210 refugees and 3,211 internally displaced people.

The IFRC has launched an appeal for 3,586,266, Swiss francs to support the Kenya Red Cross Society in providing healthcare, shelter, water and hygiene activities in a camp that has been set up to host displaced people.

“Kenya Red Cross personnel have been providing first aid, food and household items, as well as ensuring that the children of refugees in temporary camps have been vaccinated,” says Mahdi Mohammed, the disaster response manager at the Kenya Red Cross Society, who is leading the National Society’s humanitarian operations in Mandera.

“There is a strain on the host community’s limited resources after absorbing the incoming refugees. Kenya Red Cross will provide tents to ease the already growing pressure on housing and other hygiene facilities.”

The sudden influx of people in the town of Mandera has led the Kenyan government to allocate land for a refugee camp and ask the Kenya Red Cross to provide adequate shelter and sanitation facilities. As access to basic healthcare is limited in the region, the Kenya Red Cross is also supporting a health clinic for the camp, as well as providing a tracing service for family members fleeing the conflict and counselling services for the refugees.

“It is mostly women and children who have crossed the border,” says Alexander Matheou, the IFRC’s regional representative for East Africa, on his return from Mandera this week.

“They have arrived with very little, but the local community in Mandera has shown great generosity in sharing what little they have with the new arrivals. But there is too little to go round, and the lack of water, food, shelter and hygiene facilities has quickly been felt.”

“Kenya Red Cross has acted with great speed and dedication to ensure that there is a safe environment for the refugees to move into. Under these circumstances, setting up a nearby camp seems the only option to save lives.”

In recent weeks, stray gunshots have hit the Kenya Red Cross Society offices in Mandera, but the National Society is still the leading humanitarian agency on the ground working closely with the Kenyan government to coordinate the response to the evolving crisis.

Kenya Red Cross estimates that it will need to manage the camp for at least three months before people choose to return home or a longer-term solution is found.