Saturday, May 03, 2003

Thousands of Refugees Left Homeless By Floods - UN Agency
NEW YORK, 4 MAY 2003 (UN)--Thousands of Somali refugees in northeastern Kenya were left homeless after heavy rains destroyed hundreds of shelters, and there were fears today that food had been destroyed and that the collapse of latrines could spark water-borne diseases, the United Nations refugee agency reported.

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees said a majority of refugees' homes in two of the three camps in Dadaab - Ifo and Dagahaley which together house more than 60,000 refugees - collapsed or were washed away yesterday by torrential rains, which left roads both within the camps and linking Dadaab with the Kenyan capital of Nairobi, 400 kilometres to the south, impassable.

No deaths were reported but the UNHCR Representative in Kenya George Okoth-Obbo said there had been considerable damage especially with shelter. A transfer of refugees to drier parts of the camp was being considered, but movement of staff within Ifo and between Ifo and Dagahaley - some 10 kilometres - was seriously hampered by waterlogged roads.

UNHCR staff in Nairobi were urgently preparing to airlift fuel to Dadaab to run vehicles and generators in offices and the hospital and for water pumps.

The head of the UNHCR office in Dadaab, Daisy Buruku, expressed fears of an outbreak of water-borne diseases as large numbers of pit latrines had collapsed. The agency was also worried about the health of children seen playing in the stagnant water.

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