Tuesday May 30, 2023
By Victoria Amunga
NAIROBI, KENYA — Health care providers in Kenya's Dadaab refugee camp say an ongoing cholera outbreak is becoming a looming catastrophe. Doctors Without Borders has described the six-month-long cholera outbreak as the worst yet, amid an influx of new refugees from Somalia.
Medecins Sans Frontieres, popularly known as Doctors Without Borders, told a news conference Tuesday that a cholera outbreak the Dadaab camp is approaching epidemic proportions and that urgent attention in the areas of water and sanitation is needed. Dr. Nitya Udayraj is the medical coordinator.
"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,” said Dr. Nitya Udayraj, MSF’s medical coordinator. “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.”
The cholera outbreak hit East Africa’s largest refugee camp last November. At least five people have died since then. The Dadaab complex in Kenya's northeastern region is home to over 300,000 refugees, most from neighboring Somalia.
Their numbers have exceeded capacity due to the extended drought in Somalia. At least 67,000 more refugees arrived in the camp last year, according to national data, putting pressure on already limited resources. Doctors Without Borders’ country director Hassan Maiyaki said sanitary conditions are dire.
"Today, according to humanitarian organizations 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."
Kenya's Ministry of Health conducted cholera vaccinations at the camp, but the doctors say curbing the outbreak remains elusive without sanitation and hygiene intervention.