MSF warns of new influx of refugees in Kenya's Dadaab camp

2013-01-01 12:19:11 GMT2013-01-01 20:19:11(Beijing Time)  Xinhua English

NAIROBI, Jan. 1 (Xinhua) -- The international medical charity Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) has warned a new influx of refugees in Kenya's Dadaab camp after the East African country ordered refugees and asylum seekers living in urban areas to return to the camp.

In a statement received in Nairobi on Tuesday, the medical charity expressed deep concern about the medical consequences following the recent public statements from Kenyan authorities exhorting thousands of Somali refugees in Kenya to leave urban areas and go to remote and already saturated camps.

"The assistance provided here in Dadaab is already completely overstretched and is not meeting the current needs," said Dr. Elena Velilla, MSF's Head of Mission in Kenya in a statement issued in Nairobi.

"Furthermore, due to the ongoing insecurity in the camps, MSF would not be able to scale up or respond to a new emergency situation if there is an influx of new arrivals in the camps."

The Kenyan government mid December stopped registration of refugees and asylum seekers mainly from Somalia in urban areas with immediate effect due to insecurity incidents across the country.

Acting Commissioner for Refugee Affairs Badu Saro Katelo also ordered officials to close down all registration centers in the urban areas, saying such exercise will be undertaken at the refugee camps in northern Kenya.

Katelo said all asylum seekers/refugees will be registered and hosted at the refugee camps and ordered all asylum seekers and refugees from Somalia to report to Dadaab refugee camps in northeast Kenya while asylum seekers from other countries should report to Kakuma refugee camp in northwest Kenya.

The East African nation is also hosting nearly half a million refugees from Somalia and has delayed their repatriation until the security situation in the country improves further.

Currently the country hosts some 630,000 refugees, of whom more than half a million are from neighboring Somalia.

The organization says that any potential influx of new arrivals will put further pressure on the existing precarious situation.

In the Dadaab refugee camps, in northern Kenya, MSF said the rainy season is increasing the risk of disease and epidemics among an already extremely vulnerable population.

"Over the last month, the number of children admitted to the MSF hospital for severe acute malnutrition has doubled and around 300 children have been hospitalized," Velilla said.

Most of them are also suffering from acute watery diarrhoea or severe respiratory tract infections which reflect the poor living conditions in the camp.

"Since the beginning of December and the heavy rains which have caused floods, the shelter and sanitation situation that was already precarious in the camps, has become even more deplorable. This has had dramatic consequences on the population's health," Velilla said.

With a 200 bed hospital that serves as a referral facility for several camps in Dadaab, MSF is one of the main health providers, but it has been struggling to cope with the considerable and growing medical and humanitarian needs.

Since the camps were established 20 years ago, emergencies have consistently plagued Dadaab, with floods, nutritional crises and disease outbreaks commonplace.

According to the UNHCR, 11 epidemic outbreaks were reported in 2012. Today, sporadic cases of cholera and hepatitis E continue to be reported throughout the camps.

With conditions continuing to deteriorate, MSF expressed fears the impact of the Kenyan government's decision on the already disastrous medical and humanitarian situation of the refugees living in Dadaab.

MSF runs a hospital in Dagahaley, one of the five refugee camps in Dadaab. MSF teams carry out an average of 14,000 outpatient medical consultations each month and admit 1,000 patients from the refugee and host communities to the hospital.

There are currently more than 300 severely malnourished children enrolled in the nutrition program, 63 of whom were admitted to the intensive care unit this week as complicated cases.

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