Kenya + 1 more

IRC contains malaria outbreak in Kenya refugee camp

KAKUMA, KENYA - August 12, 2005 International Rescue Committee staff members have contained a serious outbreak of malaria in Kenya's Kakuma refugee camp, home to some 90,000 refugees, 80 percent of whom are from neighboring Sudan.
When the first signs of an outbreak of the fatal disease emerged in June, the IRC, which is responsible for overall health services in the camp, quickly treated the rising number of patients. Extra insecticide-treated mosquito nets were also distributed to vulnerable groups, such as people living close to mosquito-infested sections of the camp, and IRC sanitation teams stepped up efforts to spray houses and outdoor areas with insecticide.

"We targeted school buildings, densely populated areas of the camp and sections of the camp that are close to stagnant water, which is a breeding ground for mosquitoes," says IRC's doctor Wilbert Shihaji.

Shihaji says there were some 11,000 cases of malaria detected at Kakuma in July, compared to 7,000 last July.

"The increase is related to the change in weather," Shihaji explains as he checks on new patients in IRC's Kakuma hospital. "We have seen an unusual amount of rain and below normal temperatures. So more mosquitoes are breeding because of the rains and the lower temperature means that they have a higher chance of survival."

Shihaji says that luckily most of the IRC's patients have responded well to intravenous quinine. "So far only 13 of the 11,000 people who contracted malaria died. Most have been able to leave the hospital in a couple of days."

The IRC has worked in Kakuma since 1992, when it initiated a primary health care program that includes a network of clinics and community outreach services.