Somali Refugees: Waiting for Food and Hope

10 million people could face starvation unless they get food quickly, UN warns.

Dadaab Refugee Camp, Kenya. July 30, 2011 -- After many families make the long, perilous journey from Somalia to the refugee camps in Kenya, they are in for another excruciating wait.

This morning as we pulled up to the refugee compound, hundreds of refugees were already gathered in front of a giant red gate waiting to register at the camps.

Off in the distance, even more families emerged from the tinder dry desert, having just finished the over 100-mile journey. One mother was balancing all of her family's belongings and her baby. Another mother we met said it had been five days since she and her children had something to eat.

Not far off are fresh mounds of dirt – the nameless graves for the refugees who did not survive.

Once the refugees get through the gate they are brought inside to be registered. Fingerprints are taken and then families receive yellow bands and are given a ration that is intended to last 20 days. However, it can take two months before families can enter into one of the refugee camps.

"It is a problem," said William Spindler, the UNHCR director.

Today the UN said that if families run out of food, they are allowed to come back for more. But few waiting in these desert outskirts know that.

More than 1,000 refugees arrive and register every day.

The camp has now swollen to 400,000 refugees, which is equal to the population of Cleveland or Minneapolis.

Beyond the swelling refugee camps here in Kenya, the UN warned this week in emergency meetings that more than 10 million people could face starvation across the horn of Africa unless they get food and quickly.

See What David Muir Is Seeing in the Dadaab Refugee Camp

Follow David Muir reporting on Twitter @DavidMuirABC

Top Stories

Top Stories

Top Stories

Top Stories

ABC News Live

ABC News Live

24/7 coverage of breaking news and live events