GENEVA — Two people were killed and dozens injured when a riot broke out at Africa’s biggest refugee camp this week, a sign the influx of Somalis to neighboring Kenya is straining resources and nerves at the city-sized site known as Dadaab, the United Nations said Friday.
The U.N. refugee agency said the “serious disturbance” occurred Thursday in the Dagahley section of the camp when authorities tried to demolish illegal buildings at a food distribution point.
Refugees in the camp said police fired tear gas, and then live rounds, at youths angered by the bulldozing of makeshift businesses.
A senior police official at the camp, Nekson Talitis, said the rioters had threatened to overrun a police station when a decision was made to use live fire.
“Sadly, this incident is symptomatic of the pressures at the camp amid overcrowding compounded by the very high number of arrivals we have been seeing recently from Somalia,” U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees spokesman Adrian Edwards said.
The Geneva-based agency says more than 61,000 Somalis have crossed into Kenya since the start of the year, with numbers growing each week as a severe drought in East Africa compounds the dire situation civilians already face in war-torn Somalia.
Last week, the population of Dadaab passed 370,000, UNHCR said. Thousands more are waiting at reception centers outside the camp.
The U.N. children’s fund said it expects 480,000 severely malnourished children will need aid this year in Somalia, Kenya and Ethiopia. This compares with 320,000 children two years ago.
“In the south of Somalia, which is among the most severely affected, and where humanitarian assistance is most restricted, at least one in three children is severely malnourished,” UNICEF spokeswoman Marixie Mercado said. “Humanitarian conditions are the worst they have been in a decade,” she added. “Right now, 2.85 million people, or one in three Somalis, is in crisis.”