Disease and malnutrition claim lives of 10 Somali refugees in Kenya: UNHCR

31 May 2002

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) today voiced "grave concern" over the situation in Kenya's volatile border region, where 10 Somali refugees have died of disease and malnutrition over the past six days as the Kenyan authorities have prevented aid agencies from moving thousands to a safer location.

Disease and malnutrition claim lives of 10 Somali refugees in Kenya: UNHCR

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) today voiced "grave concern" over the situation in Kenya's volatile border region, where 10 Somali refugees have died of disease and malnutrition over the past six days as the Kenyan authorities have prevented aid agencies from moving thousands to a safer location.

Eight children were among those who died, according to UNHCR spokesman Rupert Colville, who told reporters in Geneva that some 70 children admitted this week to the area's local hospital were suffering from severe malnutrition. Although most of them received therapeutic feeding, about 800 children "remain at risk of severe malnutrition if food is not delivered in the next two days," he warned.

Between 3,500 and 5,000 Somali refugees - including some 400 pregnant or lactating women and 2,000 children - are encamped in the volatile Mandera border zone, according to UNHCR, which reported that serious cases of malaria, diarrhoea, conjunctivitis, anaemia and abdominal parasite infections had been documented.

UNHCR is negotiating with the Kenyan authorities in a bid to either create a temporary site near the border, or transfer the refugees to existing refugee camps in other parts of the country. "In the meantime UNHCR would like to at least be allowed to establish an emergency therapeutic feeding centre within a safe distance from the border," Mr. Colville said.

 

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