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UNHCR appeals for support as world's biggest refugee camp turns 20

(Xinhua)

08:56, February 22, 2012

GENEVA, Feb. 21 (Xinhua) -- The United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) on Tuesday called for continued support to half a million Somali refugees living in Dadaab in northeastern Kenya, as the world's biggest refugee camp turns 20 years old.

Speaking at a press conference held in Geneva, UNHCR spokesperson Andrej Mahecic said the Agency is renewing its appeal to the international community to ensure continued support to Somali refugees in the region, and to Kenya and the other countries that were hosting them.

"The 20 years that have passed also underline the need for peace in Somalia, an end to the violence there, and the possibility of refugees being able to return home," he said.

The Dadaab complex was set up by the UNHCR after a Somali civil war in 1991 generated huge refugee outflows towards neighboring countries, in particular Kenya, Yemen and Ethiopia.

Originally intended to host up to 90,000 people, the Dadaab is now home to some 463,000 refugees, including some 10,000 third-generation refugees born in the camp.

The recent famine in 2011 has caused even more Somalis to seek shelter in the already crowded camp, placing additional pressure on existing resources.

According to the UN body, more than 968,000 Somalis live as refugees in neighboring countries, including 520,000 in Kenya, 203,000 in Yemen and 186,000 in Ethiopia. Another 1.3 million people are internally displaced within Somalia.

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