Teams from international medical organisation Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders (MSF), who were already working in Dagahaley refugee camp – one of the three camps which make up Dadaab – have launched an emergency response.
Within Dagahaley camp, more than 2,700 people are sheltering in five schools, while many others are sheltering with relatives. With food supplies cut off, the camp’s markets and shops are bare.
“The water levels are still rising, forcing residents of Dagahaley camp to abandon their shelters,” says local resident Ali Muhammed, who is sheltering in a school to escape the floodwaters. “We have 30 people crammed into one classroom and face sleepless nights plagued by insects and mosquitoes.”
In the past 12 months, Dagahaley camp has seen a sharp rise in malnutrition, a measles epidemic and a protracted cholera outbreak. Neglected by international organisations, refugees in Dadaab are increasingly in need of basic humanitarian assistance.
Even before the rains began, half of Dadaab’s residents had no access to functional latrines, leading to open defecation in and around the camps. In early 2023, MSF teams built 150 communal latrines to address the alarming sanitary conditions and prevent the further spread of disease.
The current floods present a serious health risk to Dadaab’s residents, says MSF. “Prolonged lack of access to drinking water can lead to the outbreak of waterborne diseases, such as hepatitis A, hepatitis E, dysentery, typhoid, polio and cholera,” says Sajad Hussein, Advocacy Manager for MSF in Dagahaley. In addition, food shortages may lead to further spikes in malnutrition, and the standing water in which mosquitoes breed will increase people's vulnerability to diseases such as malaria and dengue fever. “People’s needs must be urgently met to prevent more serious consequences,” says Hussein.
MSF teams are distributing emergency kits containing soap, plastic sheeting, mosquito nets and water purification packs.
In recent years, people living in and around Dadaab have experienced repeated cycles of drought and flooding. Local water sources have dried up, livestock have died of thirst, and crops have been destroyed by heavy rains. “The vast majority of the population rely on what they can raise and grow,” says Sajad Hussein. “This exceptional rainy season has seen many communities lose livestock, crops or both, which means that people will continue to suffer long after the waters subside.”