Kenya: IRIN News Briefs, 27 February

At least 28 dead in typhoid, malaria outbreaks
At least 28 people have died and 233 others are in hospital following a typhoid and malaria outbreak in Embu district, Central province. Of the dead, nine were inmates at a local prison. News organisations reported on Tuesday that the hardest hit areas included Embu town, Manyatta and Runyenjes. Cases have also been reported in the neighbouring districts of Mbeere, Kirinyaga and Meru South. Of the admitted patients, 169 have malaria and 64 are suffering from typhoid, the 'Daily Nation' reported. Most of the victims have been admitted to the Embu Provincial general hospital.

Journalists, who visited the provincial hospital, said that patients were sharing beds in the wards, and others were forced to sleep on the floor. The hospital's superintendent, Masasabi Wekesa, put the admission rate at three people daily, a figure which was disputed by taxi drivers who operate around the hospital. According to them, the number could be as high as 10 a day.

On Friday, the Ministry of Health had issued a warning of an outbreak of malaria and typhoid in some areas due to heavy rains in parts of the country.

UNHCR to ensure integrity of resettlement procedures

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Ruud Lubbers, on Friday assured the international community that his organisation would do "everything possible" to ensure the integrity of its resettlement procedures. Lubbers was giving the assurances following press reports about an ongoing UN investigation into allegations of corruption and bribery in the refugee status-determination and resettlement processes of the agency's office in Nairobi. "We take these allegations very seriously - so seriously that UNHCR asked the UN's top investigative body in New York last year to carry out an investigation that is continuing today," Lubbers said. "And the current investigation follows an earlier probe, also sought by UNHCR, that was inconclusive. It's clear that we want to get to the bottom of this."

UNHCR said resettlement to third countries was one of three main solutions for refugees, in addition to repatriation to home countries or reintegration in the country of first asylum. "I assure resettlement countries that UNHCR will make every effort to vigorously uphold the integrity of this key solution for refugees which might otherwise have no hope," he said. "Resettlement has provided a new start for millions of people over the decades and we must do everything we can to see that it will be available in the future as well." He said that specific measures already taken in the Nairobi office, included barring the submission to embassies of any resettlement cases by individual staff members; establishing a more stringent system of checking resettlement cases and tighter supervision of individuals involved; closer coordination with resettlement officers from various embassies and high commissions in Nairobi; and media announcements informing people that the services of UNHCR are free of charge.

Food security outlook mixed

Kenya's food security outlook remains mixed, USAID's Famine Early Warning System (FEWS) said in its Kenya Vulnerability Update. It said the outlook was favourable in the short term in arable areas and unfavourable in most pastoral areas. It said the improving food security in the arable areas was primarily as a result of extended rains in January. Initial fears of widespread crop failure in the drought-prone short rains areas have been allayed by well above-normal rainfall in January, FEWS said. However, the mid-term food security outlook for farm families in arable areas is critically dependent upon the quality of upcoming March-June long rains.

It said that in contrast, poor weather conditions have persisted in pastoral districts of northern and eastern Kenya with localised exceptions. Consistent with normal seasonal patterns, little rainfall was reported in pastoral districts during January, even after less-than-average rainfall during the October-December rainy period, it said. FEWS also said that the pastoralists' food security trend continues to be downward and is accentuated by an erosion of coping mechanisms, resulting from four poor seasons in succession and increased conflict.

Insecurity still an issue in northern Kenya

Insecurity has continued to be a big issue in most of the northern regions of Kenya, the UN's Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA) reported in its Kenya humanitarian update. It said the situation was influencing the effectiveness of aid operations in several districts in northern Kenya. It noted that there were seven districts or parts of districts which were officially under UN security Phase 3 rules and regulations. Phase 3 is a relocation phase where only essential staff are allowed to work in the designated area, dependants are not allowed in such an area. The UN has thus made it mandatory that all UN vehicles travelling in official Phase 3 and operational Phase 3 districts must travel with police escort and have effective communication equipment. This advice is also recommended to NGOs working in the same areas.

Convoy arrangements strengthened

Meanwhile, convoy arrangements have been strengthened on the Lodwar-Kapenguria road in Turkana, northwestern Kenya, OCHA reported. "Standby escort vehicles at Kapenguria and Lodwar are available for hire for UN and NGOs. Requests for this service should be made 48 hours in advance," OCHA noted, adding that the costs are to be met by the organisations requesting the services.


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