Young Somali refugee among Somali's dying of hunger as they flee their nation. Photo via Flickr Commons TKnoxB's photostream.
UNITED NATIONS (BNO NEWS) — The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) on Tuesday voiced concern about the unprecedented levels of malnutrition among Somali children arriving mostly to Ethiopia and Kenya.
More than 50 percent of the Somali children that have arrived to Ethiopia are seriously malnourished as well as between 30 to 40 percent of those arriving in Kenya. The issue is more stressing as the influx of Somali refugees in neighboring countries continues unabated.
“Knowing that children are dying along their journey to safety breaks our hearts,” said High Commissioner Antonio Guterres. “This is turning one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises into a human tragedy of unimaginable proportions.”
According to UNHCR, more than 135,000 Somalis have fled from the Horn of Africa nation so far this year due to the ongoing violence and devastating drought. In June, 54,000 Somalis sought asylum in neighboring countries, three times more than in May.
“We are hearing reports of children below the age of five dying of hunger and exhaustion during the journey,” said UNHCR spokesperson Melissa Fleming. “Tragically, many children are in such weak conditions when they finally arrive that they die within 24 hours despite the emergency care and therapeutic feeding they immediately receive.”
UNHCR will deliver 100 tons of relief items this day to refugee camps while about 20 trucks loaded with aid is due to reach the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, on Thursday. Bokolmanyo and Malkadida, the two established refugee camps in southeastern Ethiopia, have reached their full capacity.
The complexes were opened in April 2009 and February 2010 respectively and each can accommodate up to 70,000 people. Last week a new camp was opened in Kobe. Ethiopia hosts a total of 130,000 Somali refugees.
In total, there are more than 750,000 Somali refugees in countries in the region, mostly in neighboring Kenya (which hosts 405,000), Yemen (187,000) and Ethiopia (130,000). There also are about 1.46 million internally displaced people within Somalia.
“In the light of the urgency of the situation, UNHCR not only calls on governments but also on individual donors and the private sector to urgently support our life-saving operations in Ethiopia and Kenya,” added Fleming.
Copyright 2011 by BNO News B.V. All rights reserved.
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