By KEVIN J. KELLEY
Thursday May 21, 2020
Dadaab Refugee Camp. Two residents of the Dadaab complex have tested positive for Covid-19. FILE PHOTO | PHIL MOORE | AFP
Two residents of the Dadaab complex have tested positive for Covid-19, the United Nations refugee agency has announced.
These first confirmations of the presence of the Coronavirus are raising fears that it could spread in the camps and surrounding communities.
“The crowded conditions in the Dadaab refugee camps, where health services are already under pressure, raise serious concerns about the vulnerability of over 217,000 refugees,” the UN agency said. It noted that another 320,000 persons living near the camps are also potentially vulnerable to the outbreak.
No positive tests for Covid-19 have been reported in the Kakuma camps, which are hosting 196,000 refugees.
The two infected individuals in Dadaab have been sent to isolation centres and are in stable condition, said Eujin Byun, a spokeswoman for the UN High Commissioner for High Refugees.
Contact tracing has been initiated by a disease surveillance and response team from Kenya's Ministry of Health.
Dadaab has no intensive care units, Ms Byun noted.
But the UN agency does have other resources to respond to the virus outbreak in Dadaab.
Beds for 955 patients have been provided in isolation and quarantine centres, while an additional 125 hand-washing stations have been installed at food distribution sites, schools and markets.
Frontline health workers are being given protective equipment, including 45,000 surgical masks, the UN said. More than 500 medical personnel, including 18 doctors and 150 nurses, are serving Dadaab's population, which consists almost entirely of Somali refugees.
Four “oxygen concentrators” are also available in the camps. They function similarly to respirators and require little maintenance and minimal skills to operate, Ms Byun noted.
Double food rations are being given to Dadaab households in order to reduce the need for queuing.
Donations are lagging in response to the UN's appeal for $745 million to assist refugees around the world affected by Covid-19. Only 31 percent of that targeted sum has so far been received, the refugee agency said.
Donor response to an appeal for general support for the nearly half-million refugees living in Kenya has been even poorer.
The UN's 2020 goal of $157 million in aid to refugees in Dadaab, Kakuma and Nairobi had reached the 21 percent mark as of May 15, the UN said.