Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders (MSF) is deeply concerned about the medical consequences following the recent public statements from Kenyan authorities exhorting thousands of Somali refugees in Kenya to leave urban areas and go to remote and already saturated camps around Dadaab in the north of the country. Any potential influx of new arrivals will worsen an already very precarious situation.
Over the last month, the number of children admitted to the MSF hospital for severe acute malnutrition has doubled and around 300 children have been hospitalized, 63 of whom were admitted to the intensive care unit this week as complicated cases. Most of them are also suffering from acute watery diarrhoea or severe respiratory tract infections which reflect the poor living conditions in the camp.
“The assistance provided here in Dadaab is already completely overstretched and is not meeting the current needs,” says Dr. Elena Velilla, MSF’s Head of Mission in Kenya. “Furthermore, due to the ongoing insecurity in the camps, MSF would not be able to scale up or respond to a new emergency situation if there is an influx of new arrivals in the camps."
In October 2011 two MSF aid workers, Montserrat Serra and Blanca Thiebaut, were abducted whilst working in Dadaab refugee camp. They remain in captivity in Somalia.
“Since the beginning of December and the heavy rains which have caused floods, the shelter and sanitation situation that was already precarious in the camps, has become even more deplorable,” continued Velilla. “This has had dramatic consequences on the population’s health.”
With a 200 bed hospital that serves as a referral facility for several camps in Dadaab, MSF is one of the main health providers and MSF medical teams carry out an average of 14,000 outpatient medical consultations each month and admit 1,000 patients from the refugee and host communities to the hospital. However MSF, together with all aid agencies, has been struggling to cope with the considerable and growing medical and humanitarian needs.
Since the camps were established 20 years ago, emergencies have consistently plagued Dadaab, with floods, nutritional crises and disease outbreaks commonplace. According to the UNHCR, eleven epidemic outbreaks were reported in 2012. Today, sporadic cases of cholera and hepatitis E continue to be reported throughout the camps.
With conditions continuing to deteriorate, MSF therefore fears the impact of the Kenyan government’s decision on the already disastrous medical and humanitarian situation of the refugees living in Dadaab.
Interviews with MSF's coordinator for Dadaab can be arranged, please contact Polly Markandya on +44 (0)7966677725 or via firstname.lastname@example.org. Please note that for their safety, we are unwilling/unable to discuss the ongoing kidnapping of our colleagues.