Over the weekend, Dr. Jill Biden led a delegation to Kenya to view firsthand the situation on the ground. Assistant Secretary of State for Population, Refugees, and Migration Eric Schwartz, who accompanied Dr. Biden with Special Assistant to the President Gayle Smith and Senator Bill Frist, discussed the trip and overall U.S. assistant efforts in the region on August 9, 2011, via teleconference.
Assistant Secretary Schwartz said, "The Dadaab refugee complex in the -- in northeast Kenya is the host to -- was already the host to a very large and protracted refugee population on the order of 300,000 refugees or more. And for that and the management of that relief effort over many, many years and the assistance of the management, we're very grateful to the Government of Kenya that has provided refuge to Somalis.
"But what they've seen in recent months is an enormous increase in the numbers. Right now, the numbers of refugees in the Dadaab complex is estimated at over 420,000. There are probably about 477,000 Somalis in camps throughout Kenya, but in Dadaab it's well over 420,000. The refugees from Somalia are coming in at a rate of late of about 1,400 to 1,800 per day, although that number obviously changes as the situation changes. And the challenges are substantial. People are coming in in very, very difficult conditions. The rates of malnutrition are very, very high. It has severely taxed the registration capabilities in the camps.
"At the same time, it's very important to note that the Somalis who are coming in with all of those difficulties are receiving basic food and sustenance when they get in to the camps and that the United Nations is hard at work with the involvement and support of the Government of Kenya on the expansion of this facility. There are three camps in the Dadaab complex, and one of those camps is being expanded substantially. In addition, they're building a fourth facility as well. So efforts are hard -- are underway and are moving forward in terms of expanding the capability of the camps to handle this inflow of Somalis.
"Similarly, we are making substantial efforts to provide assistant to the Government of Ethiopia, which is providing about -- assistance to about 160,000 Somali refugees, as well as our efforts to provide assistance to those areas within Somalia which we can reach with assistance. So the effort is full on and will continue in the days and weeks and months to come.
"The visit, I think, was important in terms of shedding light on the important efforts that are underway and the importance of continued support from the international community."
You can read the complete transcript here.