Publisher: The Guardian, UK
Author: Liz Ford
Story date: 17/11/2011
Disease brought to camps in Kenya by Somali refugees claims one life as treatment centres set up to manage severe cases
The UN has confirmed an outbreak of cholera at the Dadaab refugee complex in Kenya, which has so far claimed one life.
The UN refugee agency, UNHCR, said this week that 60 people had been diagnosed with the disease at the complex, now home to around 500,000 refugees, mainly those fleeing conflict, famine and severe food shortages in neighbouring Somalia.
The disease is believed to have been started by Somali refugees who had been infected on their way to the camps. Heavy rains and flooding have compounded the problem, as delivery of water to some of the camps at Dadaab has been disrupted, causing some people to use unsafe supplies, the UNHCR said.
Cholera is an acute intestinal infection, spread through water that has been in contact with the faecal matter from an infected person.
Treatment centres have been set up to manage the severe cases, although most are being treated through oral rehydration solutions administered at people's tents or at the health posts.
"We have increased levels of chlorine, which kills cholera-causing bacteria, at water points in the camps," said a UNHCR spokesman. "These are monitored to make sure they are maintained at the correct levels. We are also promoting hygiene practices among the refugees, especially the use of latrines and hand washing with soap. Each refugee received 250g of soap with the latest food distribution, and this will continue monthly for several months."
The kidnapping of aid workers from Dadaab last month and the increased tension across the Kenyan and Somalia border has slowed the delivery of aid to refugees, increasing the risk of waterborne diseases.
Almost 100 extra Kenyan police have been deployed in the camps in the last month, the UN said.
The number of refugees arriving at Dadaab has slowed over recent weeks, but refugees continue to cross the border into Ethiopia. The UN said this week that a survey conducted at refugee camps in the Dollo Ado region of Ethiopia found people arriving from Somalia were in "extremely poor health", with many families losing children to malnutrition en route or after arrival in Ethiopia. The survey found high levels of malnutrition among children under five. However, the UN said the number of deaths among children in this age bracket had decreased since the peak of the refugee influx in the summer.
Refugees Global Press Review
Compiled by Media Relations and Public Information Service, UNHCR
For UNHCR Internal Distribution