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Cholera outbreak hits overcrowded Kenyan refugee camp
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15:01, February 14, 2009

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Kenya's sprawling and overcrowded Dadaab refugee complex is grappling with a cholera outbreak, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) reported Friday.

The disease has infected 14 people so far, most of them children, and has already killed a three-year-old boy, the UNHCR said.

"Most of the cases have recovered and been discharged. An 18-month-old boy is in stable condition at the Hagadera Hospital," UNHCR spokesman Ron Redmond said in Geneva.

The first case was identified on Jan. 29 in Hagadera, the biggest of the three settlements at the Dadaab camp in northeastern Kenya, one of the world's largest refugee camps, hosting nearly 250,000 people.

There is a high risk of the outbreak spreading given the extreme overcrowding at Hagadera, which was designed for 30,000 people but now holds some 100,000 refugees, overstretching water and sanitation services.

A team of six medical specialists from the Kenya Ministry of Health, the UNHCR, the World Health Organization (WHO) and other agencies is supporting the doctors in the camp to deal with the outbreak.

Redmond noted that the UNHCR and its partners find it difficult to deliver services to refugees due to the congestion in the camp.

"Water supplies are insufficient to meet the needs of the new arrivals and there is not enough space for more latrines to meet the basic health requirement that they be located at least six meters from cooking areas," he said.

"As a result of the overcrowding, some refugees are staying outside the parameters of the camp where there are no sanitation facilities at all," he stated.

The UNHCR has recently received a commitment from Kenyan Prime Minister Raila Odinga that his government will provide land to setup a new refugee camp in northeastern Kenya to take the pressure off the Dadaab complex.


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