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MSF concerned over new influx of refugees

Friday, December 28, 2012

An international non-governmental organization has condemned the recent directive by the government ordering all refugees to leave urban areas and move back to the remote camps.

Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) in a press release Friday says that any potential influx of new arrivals will put further pressure on the existing precarious situation.

According to Dr. Elena Velilla, MSF's Head of Mission in Kenya said at the Dadaab refugee camp that the rainy season is increasing the risk of disease and epidemics among an already extremely vulnerable population.

"The assistance provided here in Dadaab is already completely overstretched and is not meeting the current needs," says Dr. Velilla, adding that 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.

She said that 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.

Most of them, Dr. Velilla says are also suffering from acute watery diarrhea or severe respiratory tract infections which reflect the poor living conditions in the camp.

"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, but it 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 crisis and disease outbreaks common place.

According to the UNHCR, eleven epidemic outbreaks were reported in 2012 and today, sporadic cases of cholera and hepatitis E continue to be reported throughout the camps.

With conditions continuing to deteriorate, MSF fears the impact of the Kenyan government's decision on the already disastrous medical and humanitarian situation of the refugees living in Dadaab.

Ten Days ago, the government ordered thousands of Somali refugees leave urban areas and go to remote camps of Kakuma following a spate of grenade attacks.

The government further decided to stop reception, registration and close down all registration centres in the urban areas with immediate effect.

Kenya hosts over 525,000 Somali refugees, the majority living in the world's largest refugee camp, Dadaab, close to the Somali border. The camp is severely overcrowded, hosting four times the population it was built for.


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