A record number of children seen by MSF teams in Dagahaley refugee camp, Kenya, in 2022; Rates of severe acute malnutrition have soared as cholera rages, drought persists and a lack of donations and response; Médecins Sans Frontières urges donor countries providing financial assistance to scale up immediately and to transmit their pledges to enable a swift response.
Hospitalizations of children suffering from severe acute malnutrition have increased in Dagahaley, one of three refugee camps in the Dadaab refugee complex in eastern Kenya, amid deteriorating humanitarian conditions in the overcrowded camps, Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) says. Doctors Without Borders is calling on donor countries to urgently release funds for humanitarian aid in response.
In 2022, MSF teams treated a record 12,007 patients – an overwhelming majority of them children – at our children’s ward and in-patient therapeutic feeding center in Dagahaley. The number corresponds to an increase of 33 percent compared to the previous year. Consistent with the alarming increase in child admissions, MSF data also shows a gradually increasing trend in the global acute child malnutrition rate in camp Dagahaley, which reached eight percent at mean upper arm circumference screening in December 2022. This represents a 45 percent increase over the previous showing in July 2022.
Several complex factors are exacerbating the humanitarian situation in Dagahaley and straining health care in the camp. An ongoing cholera outbreak, declared in late October 2022, has gripped the refugee camps and communities in Garissa and Wajir counties. A debilitating drought and ongoing conflict continue to displace people in the Horn of Africa in search of food and water. And insufficient humanitarian assistance due to tight funding continues to increase pressures and deepen widespread gaps in sectors such as water, sanitation and hygiene, nutrition, health and protection.
Worryingly, forecasts paint a bleak outlook for refugees this year. OCHA has predicted that the upcoming March-May rainy season will be absent. If this were the case, it would be the sixth consecutive rainy season and would exacerbate the scale and severity of the humanitarian emergency in the Horn of Africa. Humanitarian organizations are concerned about expected cuts in funding for refugees, which would force them to scale back operations at a time when needs are rising rapidly.
MSF, in coordination with the host community and humanitarian organizations, has increased its emergency response in Dagahaley camp beyond comprehensive health care. We opened two medical outposts, built 50 latrines, set up two water tanks, and distributed plastic sheeting and floor mats to about 800 newly arrived families living on the outskirts of the camp. Despite our efforts to target the most vulnerable refugees on the outskirts of the camp, the current humanitarian crisis in Dadaab urgently requires a broad-based response to avert further deterioration.
Médecins Sans Frontières calls on donors to release financial support quickly, which is crucial to meet the increasing need for lifesaving assistance and protection. The UN refugee agency has appealed to donors to mobilize resources to reopen IFO 2 refugee camp, which originally closed in 2018 to accommodate up to 80,000 refugees from the overcrowded camps ahead of the upcoming dry season, when more people are expected to make their way to Dadaab to find. If fundraising fails and urgent action is not taken, the influx of refugees could propel the crisis beyond what humanitarian organizations can handle with the resources currently allocated.
Refugees in Dadaab have been locked up in a 30-year state of emergency. While the immediate priority is to respond to the escalating needs in the camps, it is equally important to implement a permanent solution for refugees.
Distributed by APO Group on behalf of Doctors Without Borders (MSF).
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