Hundreds of thousands of Somali refugees holed up in northern Kenya face a “humanitarian emergency” this year as disease starts spreading through overcrowded camps, Oxfam warned on Friday.

More than 250,000 people live in Dadaab’s three sprawling camps and Oxfam said 100,000 more are expected to arrive before the end of the year as al Shabaab, a pro-al Qaeda Islamist insurgent group, battles Somalia’s fragile new government.

The aid agency said an assessment of the camp had uncovered “a serious public health crisis caused by a lack of basic services, severe overcrowding and a chronic lack of funding”.

It said illnesses including cholera would run rampant through the settlements unless urgent steps were taken.

“Conditions in Dadaab are dire and need immediate attention. People are not getting the aid they are entitled to,” said Philippa Crosland-Taylor, head of Oxfam GB in Kenya.

Dadaab’s refugees live in shacks made from branches and plastic sheeting in one of the world’s largest refugee camps.

Oxfam said half the people there have inadequate access to water and sanitation. More than 20 recent cases of cholera have been confirmed at the camps in arid eastern Kenya



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