Roundup: UN reports cholera outbreak in Kenya's largest refugee camp
Publisher: Xinhua News Agency
Story date: 15/11/2011
Language: English

UNITED NATIONS, Nov. 15 (Xinhua) – Heavy rains and an outbreak of cholera in Kenya's Dadaab complex are exacerbating the situation in the overcrowded refugee camp, where aid efforts were already hampered by insecurity, a UN spokesman told reporters here on Tuesday.

"The UN refugee agency, UNHCR, says that insecurity, as well as heavy rains and the accompanying risk of waterborne disease, are affecting aid efforts in the Dadaab refugee complex in Kenya," Eduardo del Buey, the deputy UN spokesman, said at a daily news briefing here.

"The agency is exploring options to gradually resume full operations despite continued security incidents in and around Dadaab," del Buey said. "The situation has been complicated by an outbreak of cholera. There are now 60 cases in the camps, according to the agency."

UNHCR has increased levels of chlorine at water points in the camps and is promoting hygiene practices among the refugees.

The cholera is believed to have started among new arrivals, who had most likely acquired it in Somalia or en route to Dadaab, UN officials said here.

Dadaab is home to more than 400,000 registered refugees, nearly all of them Somali, with an estimated 70,000 people having arrived in July and August as conditions in their homeland rapidly deteriorated.

"However, UNHCR says that the number of deaths among children under five has decreased dramatically compared to the very high level seen at the height of the refugee influx this summer," the spokesman said. "This reflects improved access to quality health care and nutrition services, as well as improved water and sanitation facilities."

To manage the cholera outbreak, UNHCR and its partners have set up cholera treatment centers for severe cases. Most cases can be managed through oral rehydration solutions that can be given at home or at the health posts.

The agency is working with the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) and the Kenyan Ministry of Health to train health workers in the community-based management of diarrhea so that patients can begin treatment at home.

Meanwhile, intermittent downpours in Ethiopia's Dollo Ado area continue to cause flash floods in the area. The airstrip was hit by floods in the past four days and has subsequently remained out of service.

Nonetheless, work continues on the fifth refugee camp in the area, Bur Amino, according to UNHCR. More than 7,600 recent arrivals from Somalia are now encamped at the transit center, where they receive basic shelter, relief items and hot meals.

Also, a nutrition survey at the Kobe and Hilaweyn camps in the Dollo Ado area has found high levels of malnutrition among children under five years of age. Refugees at both camps arrived from Somalia in extremely poor health condition, with many families losing children to malnutrition en route or after arrival in Ethiopia.

Health and nutrition programs have been set up by a range of experienced partners to address malnutrition, especially among the youngest children, but progress has been slow, said UNHCR.

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