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Refugees at risk as new camp stays shut

SOMALI refugees forced to build their shelters outside the safety of emergency camps fear kidnap and gang rape at the hands of armed men who prowl the bush at night.

A few hundred feet away stand facilities including a police station, toilets and schools. Thornbush fences separate residential areas for families.

But the Kenyan government is refusing to open the new Ifo 2 facility as part of the world's biggest refugee camp, Dadaab, saying the desperate Somali refugees flowing into the country are a security risk.

Women and children share their rickety shelter on the outskirts of Dadaab, a camp designed for 90,000 people which now houses around 440,000 refugees.


Almost all are from war-ravaged Somalia. Some have been here for more than 20 years, when the country first collapsed into anarchy. But now more than 1,000 are arriving daily, fleeing fighting or hunger.

The UN fears at least two regions in Somalia are suffering from famine and 11.3 million people in the Horn of Africa need aid.

To help ease the overcrowding, international donors including the US and European Union spent $16m building the Ifo 2 extension, which could house 40,000 people. But it is still unclear if the Kenyan government will open it.

Kenyan Prime Minister Raila Odinga visited Dadaab and said the Ifo 2 extension would open in 10 days. On Saturday, Kenyan government spokesman Alfred Mutua said that no decision had yet been reached.