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The World's Largest Refugee Camp Turns 20

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Surrounding the small town of Dadaab, Kenya, is one of the oldest and largest refugee camps in the world, now home more than 332,000 people, mainly from Somalia. (It was originally designed to house just 90,000.) The complex of camps was first established as a temporary solution more than 20 years ago by the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR), after Somalia descended into a civil war that continues to this day. According to UN estimates, more than 31,000 additional Somalis have arrived in the camps this year alone, as drought and continuing violence between Somali Government forces and Al-Shabaab militants have forced them to seek long-term refuge. To deal with overcrowding, sanitation, and health problems, UNHCR officials were looking to expand the complex by opening a fourth camp, but Kenyan authorities have frozen the plan due to security concerns. These photos offer a view into life in Dadaab. [32 photos]

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A Somali refugee girl bites her fingers at Ifo camp near Dadaab, northeastern Kenya, January 6, 2007. (Reuters/Radu Sigheti)
A Somali refugee girl bites her fingers at Ifo camp near Dadaab, northeastern Kenya, January 6, 2007. (Reuters/Radu Sigheti)
A view of some of the homes in the world's biggest refugee complex August 23, 2009 in Dadaab, Kenya. (Spencer Platt/Getty Images) #
Somali refugees stand next to their makeshift shelter at the Dadaab refugee camp in north eastern Kenya, on April 3, 2011. (Tony Karumba/AFP/Getty Images) #
People wait outside the UNHCR office to seek permission to move to a different camp August 21, 2009 in Dadaab, Kenya. (Spencer Platt/Getty Images) #
Salad Dahir stands in Dadaab, eastern Kenya on Wednesday Nov. 4, 2009. Salad Dahir claims he was recruited into mercenary forces trained by the Kenyan army. Thousands of people, including children, are being secretly recruited and trained inside Kenya to battle Islamic insurgents in neighboring Somalia, according to deserters, local officials, families of recruits and diplomats. Most recruits are Somalis living in crowded refugee camps and Kenyan nationals who are ethnic Somalis living nearby. (AP Photo/Riccardo Gangale) #
A Somali refugee girl covers her face at Dagahaley camp in Dadaab in Kenya's northeastern province June 5, 2009. (Reuters/Finbarr O'Reilly) #
Somali refugee children play outside a frame for a makeshift shelter at the Dadaab refugee camp in north eastern Kenya, on April 3, 2011. (Tony Karumba/AFP/Getty Images) #
A boy stands beside scavenging birds feeding off carcasses at a slaughterhouse in a refugee complex in Dadaab, Kenya, on August 22, 2009. (Spencer Platt/Getty Images) #
A U.S. Air Force C-130 Hercules drops bundles of shelters and mosquito nets onto a field in Dadaab, Kenya, on Dec. 10, 2006. U.S. aircrews air-dropped relief supplies and humanitarian aid for the approximately 160,000 stranded victims of flooding in rural areas of Kenya. (U.S. Navy / Chief Petty Officer Robert Palomares) #
Bundles of shelters and mosquito nets hit the ground after being dropped from a U.S. Air Force C-130 Hercules aircraft onto a field in Dadaab, Kenya, on Dec. 10, 2006. (U.S. Navy / Chief Mass Communication Specialist Robert Palomares) #
U.N. relief workers retrieve relief supplies after they were air-dropped from a U.S. military plane at Dadaab refugee complex in northeastern Kenya on December 9, 2006. (Reuters/Tony Karumba) #
A Somali refugee woman holds her infant as she waits for supplemental food distribution at a clinic run by the medical charity Médecins Sans Frontières at Dagahaley camp in Dadaab in Kenya's northeastern province, June 7, 2009. (Reuters/Finbarr O'Reilly) #
A Somali refugee girl has her photo taken for during a verification exercise on June 18, 2008 at the Ifo camp in Dadaab, 488 km north east of Nairobi, Kenya. (Simon Maina/AFP/Getty Images) #
Somali refugees return to their shelters at dusk in Ifo camp near Dadaab, northeastern Kenya, January 6, 2007. (Reuters/Radu Sigheti) #
A child plays on a swing at a home in Dadaab, Kenya. (Spencer Platt/Getty Images) #
A Somali woman prepares food in a shelter at Dagahaley refugee camp in Dadaab in Kenya's northeastern province, June 8, 2009. (Reuters/Finbarr O'Reilly) #
Cheikh Mukhtar carries the body of 20-month-old Anfac Anwar Mohammed across the family compound minutes after she died from starvation at Dagahaley camp in Dadaab in Kenya's northeastern province June 5, 2009. (Reuters/Finbarr O'Reilly) #
An aerial view shows makeshift shelters at the Dagahaley camp in Dadaab, near the Kenya-Somalia border, April 3, 2011. (Reuters/Thomas Mukoya) #
A woman leans against a tree in the world's biggest refugee complex August 23, 2009 in Dadaab, Kenya. (Spencer Platt/Getty Images) #
Children recite the Koran at a village school in Dadaab, Kenya on August 22, 2009. (Spencer Platt/Getty Images) #
U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres walks at the Dagahaley camp in Dadaab, near the Kenya-Somalia border, April 3, 2011. (Reuters/Thomas Mukoya) #
A girl walks home with firewood in the world's biggest refugee complex in Dadaab, Kenya on August 22, 2009. (Spencer Platt/Getty Images) #
A security officer keeps order for hundreds of people desperate to move to a less crowded refugee camp in Dadaab, Kenya. (Spencer Platt/Getty Images) #
A man who suffered a gunshot wound in Somalia is tended to by a doctor inside a Doctors Without Borders (Médecins Sans Frontières) medical station in Dadaab, Kenya. (Spencer Platt/Getty Images) #
A man carts sodas through the sand in Dadaab, on August 22, 2009. (Spencer Platt/Getty Images) #
A Somali refugee girl walks in front of a blackboard in a classroom at Hagadera camp in Dadaab in Kenya's northeastern province, June 4, 2009. (Reuters/Finbarr O'Reilly) #
Somali refugees storm a football pitch in celebration after a local refugee team scored a goal in the final seconds of a match between refugee teams at Dagahaley camp in Dadaab in Kenya's northeastern province, June 5, 2009. (Reuters/Finbarr O'Reilly) #
A Somali refugee waits to be registered by the UNHCR at Dagahaley camp in Dadaab in Kenya's northeastern province, June 3, 2009. (Reuters/Finbarr O'Reilly) #
Four-year-old Norto Yusef Mohamed looks out from a line of women while waiting with his mother, who is seeking information about a move to a different displacement camp due to overcrowding August 24, 2008 at Dadaab, Kenya. (Spencer Platt/Getty Images) #
Children play in a pool in Dadaab refugee camp, eastern Kenya, on Tuesday Nov. 3, 2009. (AP Photo/Riccardo Gangale) #
Somali refugees run from the dust at Ifo camp near Dadaab, about 80km (50 miles) from Liboi on the border with Somalia in north-eastern Kenya, January 8, 2007. (Reuters/Radu Sigheti) #
A Somali refugee waits to be registered by the UNHCR at Dagahaley camp in Dadaab in Kenya's northeastern province, June 3, 2009. (Reuters/Finbarr O'Reilly) #

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