STARVING people fleeing East Africa's drought are being barred from a refugee centre that Kenya's government refuses to open because of security fears.
New water tanks, lavatory blocks and healthcare facilities stand idle at the camp while tens of thousands are forced to shelter nearby in what Oxfam described yesterday as "shocking conditions".
The extra space was built to take the overspill from Kenya's Dadaab refugee camp, which was overwhelmed even before the effects of the current drought pushed the facilities to crisis levels.
Dadaab's three existing centres were designed to house 90,000 people, mostly fleeing war and drought in neighbouring Somalia.
They now house more than 380,000, and 1,400 more people are arriving each day.
Kenya approved the construction of the new camp two years ago, but has since blocked access for fear refugees will settle there permanently, causing security problems.
Joost van de Lest, the head of Oxfam in Kenya, said that while the country should be commended for hosting Somalia's refugees for more than a decade, it was imperative new arrivals be allowed access to the ready-made camp.
"Women and children have walked for weeks through the desert, braving hunger and attacks by armed robbers and wild animals, to get to the camps in Kenya.
"They arrive extremely weak and malnourished, and the least that we can do is ensure there is water, food and care for them when they get here." The UN's refugee agency UNHCR has been calling on the Kenyan government to open the new facilities for two years.
UNHCR chief Antonio Guterres said that the drought now affecting more than 11 million people in Kenya, Somalia and Ethiopia was "the worst humanitarian crisis in the world today".
Ethiopia revised estimates of the number of its citizens needing urgent food, water and medicines to 4.5 million, 40pc more than earlier calculated.
Separately, the anti-poverty campaign group ONE, founded by Bono, said that £13.7bn (€15.5bn) of pledges made by G8 leaders in 2009 to help prepare people for future droughts were less than a fifth funded.
"We should not need a food crisis to wake us up to the need to not just give food aid now, but also deliver on the promised partnership with African leaders, citizens and the private sector to boost (agricultural) yields across the region," said Jamie Drummond, the group's executive director.
Dr Dejene Kebede, a health officer for UNHCR, said there were 58 deaths in camps in one week alone in June.