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Amid dwindling donor support, one million displaced Somali refugees grow hopeless, UN agency warns

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More than one million Somali refugees who have been displaced from their homes for decades are becoming despondent as they continue to be unable to return home and donor support is growing fatigued, according to the United Nations refugee agency.

“There is a growing sense of helplessness in the camps because people are feeling forgotten,” said Mohamed Abdi Affey, the Special Envoy to the Somali refugee situation for the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

The Somali refugee crisis is one of the longest-running in the world, with people who have been displaced for more than 20 years. Some one million live in camps throughout the Horn of Africa, while an additional 1.1 million are displaced within Somalia.

“There has been some real progress in Somalia over the past few months, including the successful organization of elections inside the country,” acknowledged the Special Envoy. “What’s needed now is to build up infrastructures across the country so refugees do not suffer when they go back.”

UNHCR is backing a regional summit, led by the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) in Eastern Africa, which will take place in March to determine lasting solutions for Somali refugees. A proposed regional response would provide continued protection to 262,000 Somali refugees in a camp in Kenya that has been hosting people for more than 20 years. When a decision was made last year to close the camp, UNHCR lobbied the government with a new plan of action and successfully delayed its closure.