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One of the World’s Largest Refugee Camps Is Placed on Lockdown

Thursday April 30, 2020

Dadaab refugee camp in Kenya. Photographer: Sally Hayden/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Kenya put one of the world’s largest refugee camps under lockdown, even as humanitarian agencies warned there’s no infrastructure in place to deal with a potential outbreak of the coronavirus.

All movement in and out of Dadaab, home to more than 220,000 people living in rickety, makeshift housing, as well as the smaller Kakuma refugee camp in northwest Kenya, will be prohibited as of Wednesday, according to Kenya’s Interior Ministry. The measure is an extension of a 21-day partial lockdown across the country that was imposed last week.

With only one dedicated Covid-19 health facility at Dadaab, “a possible outbreak of the coronavirus would be a disaster,” Philippa Crosland-Taylor, country director at aid organization CARE, said in a statement. The camp “has no health infrastructure in place that could deal with an outbreak,” she said.

Dadaab, situated near the Somali border, opened almost three decades ago and is home to mostly ethnic Somalis who crossed into Kenya to flee civil war, drought and famine. While the Kenyan government has often threatened to close the camps, it’s never done so. Most facilities in the settlements are operated by international humanitarian organizations.


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