“Kenya Refugee Camp Braces for Devastating Cholera Outbreak, Alarming Aid Group Warning!”
On Thursday June 1, 2023, Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) made a dire warning regarding the critically urgent need for additional funding to prevent a looming health catastrophe in Kenya’s Dadaab refugee camps. The situation is highly concerning, with a cholera outbreak affecting 2,786 individuals, and an imminent risk of other gastro-intestinal diseases affecting the refugees. The MSF has strongly called upon donors and aid agencies to take immediate and significant action to address the unsanitary conditions and overcrowding that have plagued the camps.
The Dadaab complex, comprising three refugee camps in Kenya’s North Eastern Province, shelters over 300,000 refugees, most of whom fled neighbouring Somalia. The population in the camps has increased rapidly in recent months due to an extended drought in Somalia. This has exacerbated severe overcrowding and placed increasing pressure on existing services, including availability of drinking water and latrines.
The situation is so critical that the gravity of it resonates with the MSF’s country director Hassan Maiyaki, particularly in water, sanitation, and hygiene. He warns of “the worst cholera outbreak in five years, and the risk of other epidemics breaking out is high.” It could strip medical capacity in the camps, with potentially catastrophic consequences.
The curbing of the outbreak requires significant improvements to water and sanitation infrastructure. Despite conducting cholera vaccinations and health promotion campaigns, controlling this cholera outbreak remains impossible without prioritizing resources towards sustained preventive water, sanitation, and hygiene interventions.
The MSF operates a hospital in Dagahaley alone and has reported more than 1,120 cases of cholera and two deaths since the start of the outbreak in November 2022. The situation is so severe that MSF water and sanitation teams are currently trucking 50,000 liters, approximately 13,200 gallons, of drinking water each day to the outskirts of the camp. In recent weeks, MSF teams have built 150 communal latrines within the camps and on the outskirts, where around 9,000 newly arrived refugees have set up makeshift shelters in the surrounding desert.
The Kenyan government has announced plans to reopen a fourth camp, called Ifo 2, to accommodate new arrivals and alleviate the strain on resources in the existing camps. But much more must be done to meet people’s needs and prevent a humanitarian crisis. MSF calls on the international community, donors, and aid agencies to respond urgently to the unfolding crisis in Dadaab. In the longer term, MSF calls on the Government of Kenya and the UNHCR to find durable solutions for the refugees confined within the camps at Dadaab.
The three camps of Dadaab- Dagahaley, Ifo, and Hagadera- currently host more than 245,000 registered refugees, including 67,000 who arrived in 2022. MSF urges the world to act fast and decisively to prevent the spread of disease and lift the refugee’s living standards to a minimum acceptable level.