NAIROBI, Oct. 25 (Xinhua) -- International medical charity, Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) on Tuesday warned that living conditions in Kenya's Dadaab refugee complex are worsening with a high risk of disease outbreaks.
Adrian Guadarrama, MSF's deputy program manager for Kenya, called on the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) and Kenyan authorities to ramp up humanitarian support and urgently launch vaccination campaigns. The camps, home to more than 233,000 refugees, have seen thousands of people arrive since January, with hundreds more arriving every week.
"Even a few isolated cases of measles and cholera can cause a full-blown outbreak in overcrowded camp settings, where clean drinking water is scarce and sanitation and hygiene are poor," Guadarrama said in a statement issued in Nairobi, the capital of Kenya.
According to the charity, people from Somalia are escaping a severe drought, violence and continuing conflict. It said many of those arriving are coming from southern Somalia, where measles and cholera outbreaks have occurred recently.
Previous measles vaccinations in the Dadaab camps will provide some protection to children but can still prove life-threatening for new arrivals who are unlikely to have been vaccinated, the charity said.
Guadarrama said with low vaccination coverage in Somalia, and no system in place to receive and screen the newly arrived people in Kenya, infectious diseases can spread rapidly, putting people living in and around the camps, particularly children, at heightened risk of getting ill.
"The humanitarian situation in the camps and surrounding communities has not yet reached breaking point, so we still have a window of opportunity to step up preventive action and avoid an emergency unfolding on top of what is already a long-running crisis," Guadarrama said.
He said UNHCR, donors and the government of Kenya must all show a sense of urgency now by setting up a dignified reception and screening system for people crossing over to Kenya. Humanitarian assistance will also need to be scaled up to address the needs of new arrivals and long-time refugees and host communities, as they have also been suffering under the drought. ■