The current cholera outbreak in Kenya‘s Dadaab refugee camp is turning into a potential disaster, according to medical professionals. of the midst of a surge of fresh Somalian refugees, Médecins Sans Frontières has called the six-month-long cholera outbreak the deadliest one ever.
According to MSF, also known as Doctors Without Borders, the cholera outbreak in the Dadaab camp is getting close to epidemic proportions and requires immediate attention in the areas of water and sanitation.
“The humanitarian conditions there are already at its limit. An outbreak like cholera, like measles, is literally the last stroke that will bring it to the breaking point,” Dr. Nitya Udayraj, MSF’s medical coordinator, said. “Which is why today we want to bring focus that the humanitarian situation is already precarious…. We would like to bring attention that after six months, the outbreak is still continuing. It is not normal.”
In November of last year, a cholera outbreak struck the biggest refugee camp in East Africa. Since then, at least five persons have passed away. Over 300,000 refugees live in the Dadaab complex in northeastern Kenya, the most coming from neighboring Somalia.
Due to Somalia’s protracted drought, their population has beyond its carrying capacity. National figures show that at least 67,000 more refugees entered the camp last year, straining already scarce resources.
Sanitary conditions are bad, according to Hassan Maiyaki, country director for MSF.
“Today, according to humanitarian organisations working in the camps, almost half of the camp population has no access to functional latrines, leading to open defecation in and around the camp, which raises the risk of disease outbreaks.”
The Kenyan Ministry of Health administered cholera immunisations at the camp, but the doctors claim that without improvements in sanitation and cleanliness, it will be difficult to stop the outbreak.
The Kenyan government announced plans to close the Dadaab camps in 2016, claiming security concerns due to rumors that al-Shabab extremists were hiding there and the camps served as a route for the smuggling of weapons.
The United Nations encouraged Kenya to change its mind and keep providing shelter to victims of trauma and violence.
Since then, there have been intermittent discussions about the closure, and the U.N. agency for refugees, UNHCR, has received many deadlines, the most recent of which was in 2021.