Kenya Floods Briefing Notes 25 Nov 1997

News and Press Release
Originally published
Flood waters continue to rise around the mainly Somali refugee camps at Dadaab, Kenya. On Monday, flood waters entered Dagahaley camp, flooding out 5,000 of the camp's 40,000 refugees. This brings to two the number of refugee camps hit by flooding in Kenya's Northeastern Province.
On Monday, the flood waters submerged Dagahaley's police outpost, UNHCR's camp office, an NGO's compound and two schools in addition to the residential blocks.

Thousands of refugees have reported that their food rations have been lost or contaminated due to the flooding. Refugees are taking advantage of sunny periods by hanging bags of food rations from tree branches around their tukuls (huts) so that they will dry out.

Late last week the record-breaking rains submerged much of the nearby Ifo refugee camp, home to some 40,000 Somali, Ethiopian, Sudanese and Ugandan refugees.

The third and remaining camp in the area, Hagadera, has been cut in half by the floods, but residential blocks so far have not been hit. Access roads to all the camps are under as much as one meter of water.

Together the three refugee camps located some 90 kms from the Somali border shelter 122,000 refugees.

Road access into the region has been severed since the Tana River burst its banks a week ago, sending flood waters careening across the desert flatlands of Kenya's Somali border region.

All the 122,000 refugees are now cut off, with food stocks in the camps expected to last only until mid-December. Even if the rains stop immediately, up to two months and $2 million will be needed to repair the 100 km route west to Garissa, where the tarmac road to Nairobi starts.

UNHCR is preparing to airlift diesel fuel into the camps so that refugees and the local population will have access to clean water. An airlift of emergency food items like high-protein biscuits is also planned and preparations are being made to send in 10,000 pieces of plastic sheeting and 20,000 blankets for the worst-hit families.

UNHCR has asked the Kenyan government if Army helicopters and aircraft can be used to shift goods from Garissa to Dadaab. A meeting is planned today with WFP to seek its views on how the camps can be supplied with food.

Children have been swimming in the swirling floodwaters amidst human and animal waste. In Ifo camp alone, 1,200 latrines have been flooded and collapsed. Health education campaigns are underway, but it is impossible to keep refugee children who have never seen such water from frolicking in the overnight rivers.

Outbreaks of dysentery, diarrhoea, malaria and bilharzia are a certainty both in the camps and among the local population. Fortunately, most medical supplies can be flown into Dadaab's airstrip, which is dry although access roads in the camps are flooded so deeply that water crests over the hood of four wheel drive vehicles. Four 4WD vehicles have been rendered unserviceable by the flood waters in the last two days.

One case of suspected cholera has already been reported in the refugee camps. As Ifo camp's cholera treatment center is under water, another center is being established in case cholera cases are reported.