Hyenas no longer prowl outside Zaytun Ibrahim's makeshift home, frightening her seven children and keeping her awake at night, now that the U.N. has started moving tens of thousands of families to new dwellings from the outskirts of the world's fastest-growing refugee camp.
The U.N.'s refugee agency is moving new refugees to two new camps to ease severe overcrowding at eastern Kenya's overcrowded Dadaab camps. The agency says the new camps, Ifo Extension and Kambioos, will accommodate more than 200,000 people. Around 33,000 refugees have already been moved since July.
Originally built in 1991 to hold 90,000 people, the three camps comprising Dadaab have been swollen by refugees fleeing Somalia's 20-year-old civil war. The camps now hold more than 400,000 refugees and are the world's largest.
More than 1,000 new refugees like Ibrahim are still arriving each day, fleeing a spreading famine in southern Somalia and fighting between al-Qaida-linked militants and the weak U.N.-backed government. In August alone, 36,000 people arrived at Dadaab, said William Spindler, a spokesman with the U.N. refugee agency in Dadaab.
Since there's no space in designated camps, refugees stay with relatives or construct ramshackle dwellings of sticks and cloth in the bush on the outskirts, far from the protection of police stations and facilities like clinics or schools.
Ibrahim had no relatives at Dadaab and camped in the bush with her children. She said they had been too terrified to sleep as wild animals prowled around them.
"We now hear (hyena) screams during the night, but it can't dare come here because it is afraid of the people," she said, standing in front of her new tent at Ifo Extension.
The old camps _ where in some places five families are sharing plots designed for one _ were declared full in 2008 but the opening of new areas was delayed several times by the Kenyan government, which said Somali refugees were a security risk. Last month Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki urged the world to set up camps for the needy inside Somalia.
"The good thing is the government of Kenya _ and we appreciate that _ allowed us to use this place to move (the refugees)," said a spokesman with U.N.'s refugee agency, Emmanuel Nyabera.
At the wind-swept camp of Ifo Extension, about 300 tents are erected each day, said the U.N. refugee agency's emergency coordinator in Dadaab, Henok Ochalla, and long-shuttered health facilities and schools have been opened.
But the flood of new arrivals is unlikely to stop soon.
On Monday, the U.N. said that famine had spread to a sixth area in Somalia and that 750,000 people are at risk of starving to death in the coming months unless they receive urgent help. Around 13 million people need food aid in East Africa, the U.N. says.