Kenya bans entry to two refugee camps hosting 400 000 people

accreditation

Kenya has banned movement in and out of two huge refugee camps as part of containment measures aimed at preventing the spread of the coronavirus among the vulnerable communities.

LIVE | All the latest coronavirus and lockdown updates

Interior Minister Fred Matiangi said on Wednesday the restrictions apply to the Dadaab camp in eastern Kenya, home to 217 000 people, and the Kakuma camp in north-western Kenya, home to 190 000 people.

Kenya, which has recorded 384 coronavirus cases to date, has yet to report any infections in the two camps, which house refugees from Somalia, South Sudan and Ethiopia - some of whom have lived there for almost 20 years.

Health experts and humanitarian groups have long warned an outbreak of Covid-19 - the disease caused by the new coronavirus - in densely populated refugee camps would be catastrophic.

In Dadaab, "a possible outbreak of the coronavirus would be a disaster with a quarantine capacity for only 2 000 people in place and only one dedicated Covid-19 health facility including 110 beds for more than 270 000 people," Philippa Crosland-Taylor, of Geneva-based organisation CARE, said on Twitter.

'Significant change'

Kenya has not imposed a full lockdown, but has imposed a dusk-to-dawn curfew and similarly blocked movement in and out of Nairobi, three coastal towns and the north-eastern county of Mandera.

UN refugee agency spokesperson Eujin Byun told AFP news agency the new restrictions would not mean a "significant change" for the refugees.

She said the issuance of movement passes allowing them to travel out of the area has been halted since the end of March.

However host communities are now also blocked from leaving the area, and movement into the area is restricted.

Humanitarian movement will be allowed on a "case by case" basis, and aid and vital cargo will still be allowed into the area.

Speaking to Al Jazeera last month, Byun said having so many people living in close proximity was one of the major risk factors for the spread of the virus, while ensuring that refugees have access to clean water and soap - two of the most effective weapons against it - was critical.

She said the UNHCR had altered its operations in the camps to try to avoid gatherings. For example, to reduce the contact between residents and humanitarian workers, it plans to distribute two months' food rations at once, whereas in the past, they were distributed monthly or every two weeks.

The agency had also stopped sending outside missions into the camps to prevent a potential spread of the virus.

Information was also being sent to residents via mobile phone apps such as WhatsApp, she added, to limit social gatherings and "to reduce fear and panic in the refugee camp and prevent any kind of misinformation".

- Stay healthy and entertained during the national lockdown. Sign up for our Lockdown Living newsletter. Register and manage your newsletters in the new News24 app by clicking on the Profile tab

We live in a world where facts and fiction get blurred
In times of uncertainty you need journalism you can trust. For only R75 per month, you have access to a world of in-depth analyses, investigative journalism, top opinions and a range of features. Journalism strengthens democracy. Invest in the future today.
Subscribe to News24
Lockdown For
DAYS
HRS
MINS
Voting Booth
Children between 12 and 17 can now be vaccinated against Covid-19. As a parent I am:
Please select an option Oops! Something went wrong, please try again later.
Results
Relieved, it's been a long wait to this point
50% - 1776 votes
A bit hesitant, and will wait to see how it goes
22% - 776 votes
Completely against my child getting the shot
28% - 981 votes
Vote
Rand - Dollar
14.58
-1.9%
Rand - Pound
20.12
-0.0%
Rand - Euro
16.97
-0.0%
Rand - Aus dollar
10.92
-0.0%
Rand - Yen
0.13
+0.0%
Gold
1,782.58
+0.0%
Silver
24.14
-0.6%
Palladium
2,017.14
-2.6%
Platinum
1,053.00
+0.1%
Brent Crude
85.82
+0.9%
Top 40
59,535
-1.4%
All Share
66,058
-1.3%
Resource 10
61,431
-2.8%
Industrial 25
85,433
-0.1%
Financial 15
13,820
-1.4%
All JSE data delayed by at least 15 minutes Iress logo
Editorial feedback and complaints

Contact the public editor with feedback for our journalists, complaints, queries or suggestions about articles on News24.

LEARN MORE