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15 July 2011

300 Somali children left for dead in drought


Somalis fleeing hunger in their drought-stricken nation walk along the main road leading from the Somalian border to the refugee camps around Dadaab, Kenya, on Wednesday, July 13. More than 11 million people in the Horn of Africa are confronting the worst drought in decades and need urgent assistance to stay alive, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said. (Rebecca Blackwell / AP)

DADAAB, Kenya — Trying to escape starvation and East Africa's unforgiving drought, hundreds of Somali children have been left for dead on the long, dusty journey to the world's largest refugee camp.

UNICEF on Thursday called the drought and refugee crisis "the most severe humanitarian emergency in the world." The international Red Cross signaled "great alarm" this week at the nutritional state of Somali children.

Thousands of Somalis are walking days and sometimes weeks to reach the refugee complex known as Dadaab, in hopes of finding food.

But the journey is claiming untold numbers of children as victims.

Andrew Wander, a spokesman for Save the Children, said his agency is providing care to more than 300 unaccompanied children who were found on roadsides after their parents died or abandoned them on their way to Dadaab.

"More children have died of malnutrition in the first four months of this year than in the whole of last year," he said.

With a population of almost 400,000, the Dadaab Refugee Camp in north-east Kenya is beginning to resemble a city, with up to 1,500 new arrivals everyday, according to NBC News.

UNICEF on Thursday called the drought and refugee crisis "the most severe humanitarian emergency in the world." The international Red Cross signaled "great alarm" this week at the nutritional state of Somali children.

Thousands of Somalis are walking days and sometimes weeks to reach the refugee complex known as Dadaab, in hopes of finding food.

But the journey is claiming untold numbers of children as victims.

Andrew Wander, a spokesman for Save the Children, said his agency is providing care to more than 300 unaccompanied children who were found on roadsides after their parents died or abandoned them on their way to Dadaab.

"More children have died of malnutrition in the first four months of this year than in the whole of last year," he said.

With a population of almost 400,000, the Dadaab Refugee Camp in north-east Kenya is beginning to resemble a city, with up to 1,500 new arrivals everyday, according to NBC News.

"He tried to cry before he died, but he could not. He was so weak. He died peacefully from hunger," he said. "I buried him by myself in a shallow ditch so hyenas could not eat him."

On her way to Dadaab, Abdullahi said she walked with friends for three days before she and her children lagged behind. She saw around 20 children dead or unconscious abandoned on the roadside.

"I saw two elderly people on the road," she said. "They cried out, 'Ma'am, give us a helping hand.' They wanted to sweet-talk me, but I said to them 'I can't help' and moved on.

"You will feel kind only when you have something," she said. "I wanted to give the little water I had to my children."

NBC News and The Associated Press contributed to this report. - MSNBC