UN airlift arrives with vital aid for Somali refugees in Kenya


The first in a series of emergency airlift flights arrived in the Kenyan capital as part of the efforts of the United Nations refugee agency to assist the hundreds of thousands of Somalis who have taken refuge in neighbouring countries.

The giant cargo jet chartered by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) that landed in Nairobi brought with it 100 tonnes of tents that are destined for the Dadaab refugee camp complex near the Kenya-Somalia border.

The airlift will support UNHCR’s efforts to help more than 430 000 Somali refugees in Kenya and Ethiopia, including 164 000 who have arrived in the two countries since the beginning of the year, UN News Service reports.

Some 3 000 continue to arrive daily, fleeing continuing insecurity, drought and hunger in Somalia, the agency noted in a news release.

Today’s flight is the first of five scheduled for Nairobi this week. Another airlift of UNHCR aid supplies to Ethiopia is also set to begin as early as Monday, bringing with it up to of 20 000 tents.

Somalia is the country worst affected by a severe drought that has ravaged large swaths of the Horn of Africa, leaving an estimated 11 million people in need of humanitarian assistance.

UN agencies have asked for US$1.6 billion to pay for essential programmes in the Horn of Africa, but have only received half that amount. Kenya, Somalia, Ethiopia and Djibouti are all facing a crisis that is being called the worst in 50 years.