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Deputy Executive Director Hilde F. Johnson asks donors to ‘step up to the plate’ with support

UNICEF Image: Deputy Executive Director Hilde F. Johnson
© UNICEF Kenya/2008/ McBean
UNICEF Deputy Executive Director Hilde Johnson talks with a mother who is a refugee from Somalia in a treatment centre for malnourished children in Kenya.

By Pamella Sittoni

NAIROBI, Kenya, 4 December 2008 – UNICEF has appealed for funds to help support families in the Dadaab camp in North Eastern Kenya who have fled worsening conflict in Somalia.

UNICEF Deputy Executive Director Hilde Johnson, who visited Dadaab on Tuesday, said both resources and physical locations were needed to increase the capacity of camps to absorb the influx of Somali refugees. The lives of thousands of children and women at the camps would be at risk if help did not come urgently, she added.

“Our funds for therapeutic feeding run out at the end of the year. We cannot let 16,000 women and children be without this basic nutrition assistance to be able to survive,” she said after visiting a centre providing therapeutic feeding for severely malnourished children.

Launch of 2009 Humanitarian Appeal

Ms. Johnson visited Kenya to support the launch of the 2009 Humanitarian Appeal for Somalia and meet Somali refugee children and their families in the Dadaab camps.

Ms. Johnson’s visit comes at a time when an upsurge in conflict in Somalia has made children vulnerable to violence, disease, malnutrition and psychological trauma.

Aid for essential services

In the 2009 consolidated appeal for humanitarian aid in Somalia, launched on Monday, UNICEF is seeking 79 million dollars to support interventions to provide health and nutrition services for child survival, water, sanitation and hygiene promotion, basic education for children at the primary school level and child protection, as well as operational costs for security and logistics.

UNICEF Kenya is seeking 1.4 million dollars for life-saving programmes for refugees in nutrition, water and sanitation and child protection.

“As the situation in Somalia does not seem to improve, we will get an even larger influx. There’s now almost 10,000 new arrivals a month and so there’s a big challenge for us to be able to respond to the crisis,” Ms. Johnson said.

UNICEF Image: Deputy Executive Director Hilde F. Johnson
© UNICEF Kenya/2008/ McBean
The therapeutic feeding centre at Dadaab camp has seen an increase in numbers, particularly from the new arrivals.

Camps past capacity

The three camps at Dadaab, whose capacity is only 90,000 people, are now holding 229,000. This year alone, the camps have received 57,000 new arrivals. The influx has overstretched services at the camps, with families that are yet to be registered having to share food ratios and crowd into limited accommodation with clan members.

Hibu Fara Hisi and her four children aged two to seven years came to Dadaab a month ago, but only got registered on Tuesday. Without registration, one cannot access the basic services provided for refugees, including food, firewood and cooking utensils.

“We only had one meal a day and we have to sleep in the makeshift kitchen. In the morning, we must rise early to make room for our hosts to cook,” she says.

With registration, she now has the important card that will entitle her to food and other services. Her children can also go to school.

'Step up to the plate'

The therapeutic feeding centre has seen an increase in numbers, particularly from the new arrivals.

“We see children that are absolutely in dire straits and that need life-saving help to survive. We also see mothers that are suffering from anaemia and other diseases, who are also in dire need of help. And so we need the donors to step up to the plate to support programmes that we have in this area, together with our partners,” said Ms. Johnson.

During her Kenya visit, Ms. Johnson held discussions with Prime Minister Raila Odinga and Vice-President Kalonzo Musyoka.



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