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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Crisis in Horn of Africa

Tens of thousands of Somalis are fleeing conflict and drought into Djibouti, Ethiopia and Kenya.

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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.

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During a recent visit to Yemen, UNHCR Assistant High Commissioner for Protection Erika Feller pledged to further raise the profile of the situation, to appeal for additional funding and international action to help Yemen, and to develop projects that will improve the living conditions and self sufficiency of the refugees in Yemen.

Since January 2006, Yemen has received nearly 30,000 people from Somalia, Ethiopia and other places, while more than 500 people have died during the sea crossing and at least 300 remain missing. UNHCR provides assistance, care and housing to more than 100,000 refugees already in Yemen.

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This surge in arrivals is largely due to the continuing conflict in Somalia and the use of new smuggling routes from Somalia to Yemen and across the Red Sea from Djibouti. Many of the new arrivals also tell of crop losses due to drought, which forced them to leave home. This photo set focuses on those people leaving from Djibouti.

UNHCR has been calling for increased action to save lives in the Gulf of Aden and other waters. We have stepped up our work in Yemen under a US$17 million operation that includes extra staff, provision of additional shelter and assistance, and protection for refugees and internally displaced people.

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