NAIROBI, Nov. 7 (Xinhua) -- The UN refugee agency is appealing for 2.8 million U.S. dollars to provide essential supplies and respond to possible disease outbreaks among more than 300,000 refugees in two camps in Kenya threatened by flooding.
Andrej Mahecic, spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), said in a statement received here Saturday that the agency has already begun to make engineering improvements in the two camps: Kakuma in north-western Kenya and Dadaab in the east.
"We fear that the looming El Nino phenomenon -- a change in the atmosphere and ocean of the tropical Pacific region that produces floods, droughts and other weather disturbances in many regions of the world ¨C may now threaten the 338,000 mostly Somali refugees in the two camps, which in any case usually are flooded for three months every year," he said.
Located some 90 km from the border with Somalia, Dadaab -- the largest refugee site in the world -- is actually a complex of three camps that were built to house 90,000 people but today are home to more than three times that number.
Much of the money will be used to pre-position essential items such as fuel, blankets, plastic sheets, and to respond to possible outbreaks of disease.
"When heavy rains started three weeks ago, UNHCR began digging trenches and placing sandbags around hospitals, boreholes and other strategic locations in both camps," the statement said.
UNHCR began digging trenches and placing sandbags around hospitals, boreholes and other strategic locations in both camps when the heavy rains began three weeks ago.
The agency noted that if not for these and other measures, many sections of the camp would have been inundated.
"We are also preparing to locate to higher ground within the camps refugees who might be worst affected by the floods, particularly the chronically ill, disabled people, the elderly and children and teenagers on their own," he said.
"In order to protect refugees in Kakuma, the camp harder hit by floods in the past, we have diverted two seasonal rivers, the Tarach and Lodoket, that have often inundated lower grounds," he said.
The worst flooding in Kakuma was recorded in May 2003 when some16,800 refugees saw their homes destroyed.
A number of latrines also overflowed and collapsed, leading to the spread of water-bone diseases, including cholera and dysentery.
The overcrowded Dadaab complex, now home to more refugees than any other site in the world, last experienced severe flooding in 2006.
This is not the first time these two camps have had to deal with the impacts of severe flooding, UNHCR pointed out.
The worst flooding in Kakuma was recorded in May 2003, during which the homes of some 16,800 refugees were destroyed.
In addition, a number of latrines overflowed and collapsed, leading to the spread of water-borne diseases, including cholera and dysentery. The overcrowded Dadaab complex last experienced severe flooding in 2006, the agency added.