As violence and threats in the northeastern province of Kenya escalate, international medical organisation Doctors Without Borders (MSF) has evacuated 42 of its staff from Dadaab refugee camps to Nairobi. The precautionary measure has already had a direct impact on MSF’s ability to provide much-needed medical care to the mainly Somali refugees in Dadaab.
Two of MSF’s four health posts have closed, antenatal care in its hospital has been suspended, and other medical services are likely to be affected by the drastic reduction in staff numbers.
“Refugees and medical staff are bearing the brunt of the deteriorating security conditions,” says Charles Gaudry, MSF’s head of mission in Kenya. “The current security situation is severely limiting the ability of our medical staff to provide humanitarian aid to people who desperately need it.”
MSF calls on armed groups to guarantee respect for medical facilities, patients and staff so that it can resume full activities as soon as possible.
Dadaab, currently home to some 350,000 people, is the largest refugee camp in the world. For more than 20 years, it has been home to generations of Somalis who have fled a country embroiled in conflict. MSF operates a 100-bed hospital and now two health posts in Dagahaley, one of the five camps that make up the Dadaab complex.
Humanitarian assistance in the camps has been reduced over recent years due to increasing insecurity and a decrease in funding received by many aid organisations. Despite this, Dadaab still offers a safer refuge than Somalia.
MSF will continue to evaluate the situation in the hope that safety and the integrity of MSF staff in the camps can be assured. Once it has obtained such guarantees, MSF will consider resuming full medical activities in Dadaab.
MSF has been working in Dadaab for 20 years and is currently the only provider of medical care in Dagahaley camp, where it runs a 100-bed hospital and now two health posts, managed and run by its Kenyan staff. The hospital provides inpatient and outpatient services, including surgery, maternity care, HIV and TB treatment, and an inpatient feeding centre for malnourished children.
In 2014, MSF provided 180,000 outpatient consultations, admitted 12,000 people as inpatients, provided 12,000 antenatal consultations, and delivered 3,240 babies. In the aftermath of the Garissa University attacks on 2 April 2015, MSF deployed a team from Dadaab to support Garissa hospital in treating the wounded, and provided medical assistance to students evacuated to Garissa airport.