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Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History
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Somali refugees arrive at Kakuma, part of the Dadaab camps in Kenya—the largest refugee complex in the world.

Somali refugees arrive at Kakuma, part of the Dadaab camps in Kenya—the largest refugee complex in the world. © Alex Majoli/Magnum Photos 2002.



Map of Kenya and the surrounding countries of east Africa.

Map of Kenya and the surrounding countries of east Africa. [+] Click image to enlarge.


Massive tsunami waves crashing into trees and an automobile

East Africa Desertification, Ongoing. Photo courtesy of United Nations Environment Programme
[+] Click image to enlarge.

8 million people in need of humanitarian aid
Nearly 500,000 refugees live in the Dadaab camps in Kenya
80% of new arrivals to Dadaab are women and small children

Situated in an already environmentally fragile region in Kenya, Dadaab is the world's largest refugee settlement. It was established in the 1990s as a temporary measure to provide safety for up to 90,000 war refugees. Dadaab has become a permanent fixture, with families living in the settlement for generations.

The removal of trees and ground cover by the refugees for fire wood and the increased use of water, combined with years of drought, have resulted in the desertification of this naturally arid region. Competition for these diminishing resources with local communities exacerbates the violence in the area, which increases the number of refugees, which furthers desertification—creating a climate change disaster with no easy solutions.

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