NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) — More than 800 Somali children arrive each day at overcrowded refugee camps in northeastern Kenya to escape a devastating drought in their war-ravaged country, an aid group said Tuesday.
The children are among nearly 1,300 people who arrive each day at the Dadaab refugee camps, some of them "in incredibly dire situations," said Catherine Fitzgibbon, Save the Children's Kenya program director.
"Children have made long journeys in terrifying conditions, often losing their families along the way and arriving at the camps in desperate need of security, health care and a normal life," she said. "Nearly every child or parent we have spoken to says they are not just fleeing fighting in Somalia — the drought and food crisis are equally perilous to them now."
The influx of refugees is placing further strain on the Dadaab camps, the world's largest refugee camps, which were originally built for 90,000 people, but which now house some 360,000 refugees.
The U.N. refugee agency said last week that 20,000 Somalis have arrived in Kenya in two weeks alone, a sharp increase from last year, when 6,000 to 8,000 Somalis were arriving in Kenya each month.
The group said some families walk in searing heat for more than a month in search of food, water and shelter. Many discard their few possessions along the way.
A mother of four, who was only identified by her first Fatuma, told the group that she trekked hundreds of miles (kilometers) for more than a month with her four children.
"The weather was very harsh. It was so hot, and there was very little shelter. I left my husband in Somalia. I do not know if I will see him again," she told Save the Children staff who interviewed her. "I am worried for him. The war in Somalia is very bad for families. The drought as well is just too much. We cannot cope."