Many dying en route while fleeing Somalia drought: UNHCR

8th July 2011, Comments 0 comments

Many people, including children, are dying while fleeing serious drought in Somalia, the UN refugee agency said Friday, warning that aid efforts are at risk of being overwhelmed by the large numbers of refugees arriving in camps.

"Many people are dying en route from what we hear," said Melissa Fleming, spokeswoman for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees.

She could not give details on the death toll, but said there were "harrowing" accounts from mothers who had lost children on the way and others who were forced to leave sick family members behind.

About 1,700 Somalis are arriving daily at the Dollo Ado area in south-east Ethiopia in search of food and water, while in neighbouring Kenya, about 1,400 are arriving daily in the overcrowded Dadaab refugee camp, said the UNHCR.

"Today we are warning that humanitarian efforts to help newly arriving Somali refugees in southeast Ethiopia are at risk of being overwhelmed without a more rapid and robust international response to the drought and displacement crisis in the Horn of Africa," said Fleming.

Underlining the high number of people arriving in Dollo Ado, Fleming said that systems to meet the food and health needs are "close to buckling."

The UN had earlier warned that ten million people in the Horn of Africa have been hit by the worst drought in 60 years, with some areas on the verge of famine.

A poor rainy season coupled with rising food prices have led to severe food shortages in countries including Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia and Uganda.

© 2011 AFP

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