The United Nations is launching a $3 million (Sh300 million) “peacebuilding” initiative in Kenya and Somalia to facilitate the voluntary departure of 3,000 refugees from the Dadaab complex.

UN officials describe the 18-month-long pilot project as “unique” in its cross-border scope.

On the Somalia side, it will be focused on the Baidoa area, which lies about 250 kilometres west of Mogadishu.

Security is said to have improved in Baidoa following an Al-Shabaab attack 10 months ago that killed 30 civilians.

By providing skills training in Dadaab and investment in job creation in Baidoa, the effort seeks to overcome a major impediment to the mass return of refugees from Dadaab: lack of economic opportunities in Somalia.

Citing security concerns, the Kenyan government has been pushing for the closure of the Dadaab camps, which held 275,529 refugees as of December 1.