IKEA Foundation gives UNHCR US$62 million for Somali refugees in Kenya

News Stories, 30 August 2011

© UNHCR/E.Hockstein
Children race each other to pass the time in one of the refugee camps at Dadaab in north-east Kenya. The IKEA Foundation donation will help such people.

GENEVA, August 30 (UNHCR) The IKEA Foundation has donated US$62 million to UNHCR for the agency's expanding operation to help tens of thousands of Somali civilians at the huge Dadaab refugee complex in north-east Kenya.

"The donation, which will be staggered over three years, is the largest private donation that the UN refugee agency has received in its 60-year history, and the first time that a private body has chosen to directly support a major refugee complex," UNHCR spokesman Adrian Edwards said in Geneva on Tuesday.

UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres, who is currently in East Africa to assess the situation for displaced Somali civilians, welcomed the donation. "This humanitarian gesture by the IKEA Foundation comes at a critical time," he said. "The crisis in the Horn of Africa continues to deepen with thousands of people fleeing Somalia every week. We are extremely grateful. Help like this can't come a moment too soon."

Edwards, speaking to journalists at Geneva's Palais des Nations, said UNHCR was working with the staff of the Foundation on the development of a detailed submission for how these funds will be used, but in the short-term the focus will be on helping up to 120,000 refugees who have recently arrived from neighbouring Somalia at Dadaab, the world's largest refugee complex. Edwards said there would be a "particular focus on refugee families and children."

The Dadaab initiative is part of a broader partnership between the IKEA Foundation and UNHCR that began a year ago and includes funding support to UNHCR's work in Bangladesh, eastern Sudan and Kenya. IKEA also provides in-kind product support to UNHCR's emergency operations in Kyrgyzstan and Tunisia as well as expertise in logistics, supply, packaging and warehousing.

Dadaab, which lies in a remote and arid region of Kenya, was first opened in the early 1990s after the onset of civil war across the border in Somalia. This year it has seen a dramatic surge in new arrivals as a result of the conflict and drought in Somalia.

Originally designed for 90,000 people it now hosts a population of approximately 440,000 refugees, 150,000 of whom have arrived in the last three months. This is putting enormous strain on those living and working there as well as host communities. Many of the newly arrived refugees are suffering malnutrition, and are in critical condition.

The IKEA Foundation donation will immediately help UNHCR expand its life-saving help for people already arrived at the camp.

"This initiative is a bold but natural extension of IKEA Foundation's long-standing commitment to making a better everyday life for children and families in need throughout the developing world," said Per Heggenes, chief executive officer of the IKEA Foundation. "Supporting UNHCR, both immediately and over the long term, is one of the most effective ways to immediately make a difference in the lives of thousands of refugee children and their families."

UNHCR, the UN refugee agency, relies on donations to help millions of refugees and other displaced people around the world. Most of these donations are from governments.

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Crossing the Gulf of Aden

Every year thousands of people in the Horn of Africa - mainly Somalis and Ethiopians - leave their homes out of fear or pure despair, in search of safety or a better life. They make their way over dangerous Somali roads to Bossaso in the northern semi-autonomous region of Puntland.

In this lawless area, smuggler networks have free reign and innocent and desperate civilians pay up to US$150 to make the perilous trip across the Gulf of Aden.

Some stay weeks on end in safe houses or temporary homes in Bossaso before they can depart. A sudden call and a departure in the middle of the night, crammed in small unstable boats. At sea, anything can happen to them - they are at the whim of smugglers. Some people get beaten, stabbed, killed and thrown overboard. Others drown before arriving on the beaches of Yemen, which have become the burial ground for hundreds who many of those who died en route.

Crossing the Gulf of Aden

Somalia/Ethiopia

In February 2005, one of the last groups of Somalilander refugees to leave Aisha refugee camp in eastern Ethiopia boarded a UNHCR convoy and headed home to Harrirad in North-west Somalia - the self-declared independent state of Somaliland. Two years ago Harrirad was a tiny, sleepy village with only 67 buildings, but today more than 1,000 people live there, nearly all of whom are former refugees rebuilding their lives.

As the refugees flow back into Somalia, UNHCR plans to close Aisha camp by the middle of the year. The few remaining refugees in Aisha - who come from southern Somalia - will most likely be moved to the last eastern camp, Kebribeyah, already home to more than 10,000 refugees who cannot go home to Mogadishu and other areas in southern Somalia because of continuing lawlessness there. So far refugees have been returning to only two areas of the country - Somaliland and Puntland in the north-east.

Somalia/Ethiopia

Flood Airdrop in Kenya

Over the weekend, UNHCR with the help of the US military began an emergency airdrop of some 200 tonnes of relief supplies for thousands of refugees badly hit by massive flooding in the Dadaab refugee camps in northern Kenya.

In a spectacular sight, 16 tonnes of plastic sheeting, mosquito nets, tents and blankets, were dropped on each run from the C-130 transport plane onto a site cleared of animals and people. Refugees loaded the supplies on trucks to take to the camps.

Dadaab, a three-camp complex hosting some 160,000 refugees, mainly from Somalia, has been cut off from the world for a month by heavy rains that washed away the road connecting the remote camps to the Kenyan capital, Nairobi. Air transport is the only way to get supplies into the camps.

UNHCR has moved 7,000 refugees from Ifo camp, worst affected by the flooding, to Hagadera camp, some 20 km away. A further 7,000 refugees have been moved to higher ground at a new site, called Ifo 2.

Posted in December 2006

Flood Airdrop in Kenya

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