|Refugee Nutrition Information System (RNIS), No. 27 - Report on the Nutrition Situation of Refugee and Displaced Populations (UNSSCN, 1999, 78 p.)|
Refugees in Kenya
At the end of May there were approximately 182,000 UNHCR registered refugees in camps in Kenya (WFP -05/07/99). The majority of these are Somalis and Sudanese, but there are also approximately 5,000 Ethiopians. The camps are in two areas: Kakuma near the Sudanese border (camp population 71,927) and Dadaab, near the Somalian border (camp population 110,342). These are semi-arid areas which are traditionally populated by pastoral nomads. The refugees face many barriers to self-reliance; there is little opportunity for food production, income generation or trade. The Kenyan Government's policies also discourages the refugees from integrating with the local populations. Thus the refugees remain heavily reliant on the general ration provided by WFP and its donors (WFP - 24/03/98).
President Daniel arap Moi has claimed that the Somali refugees in Kenya are contributing to crime and insecurity in north-eastern Kenya. UNHCR is looking at ways to support the Kenyan government's efforts in maintaining security in the area and will also look at the possibilities for voluntary repatriation for the refugees to safe parts of Somalia (IRIN -05/05/99).
On average 1,200 Sudanese refugees have entered Kenya from South Sudan per month over the reporting period. They are seeking asylum mainly because of war and drought in the areas where they live. The refugees, who are reported to be weak, will probably be resettled in Kakuma camp (IRIN -10/06/99; UNHCR - 05/07/99).
The most recent health report (March 1999) stated that the CMR for the first three months of the year was satisfactory, ranging from 0.44-0.54/10,000/day in all the camps (UNHCR - 19/05/99). The under-five mortality rate ranged from 0.27-2.0/10,000/day. The main causes of death were malaria and respiratory tract infections in all age groups. The incidence of malaria was 58.6/1,000/month in March, which is normal for the onset of the rainy season. A few cases of meningitis were also reported and this situation is being closely monitored, especially in Kakuma, given the outbreak of meningitis which has been reported in South Sudan.
No reports of any change in the nutritional situation in the camps have been received and WFP reports that the nutritional status and health of the population remains "very good". The most recent surveys in the Dadaab camps (September 1998) estimated the prevalence of acute wasting at around 10%, with 2% severe wasting. In Kakuma the most recent survey estimated a prevalence of wasting of 15.6% and 1.7% severe wasting (October 1998). Food basket monitoring from Dadaab has shown that WFP continues to provide an adequate general ration to the population, currently the average is 2,100 kcal/day/person. A vitamin-A distribution organised in March reached 82.1% of the population aged between 6 - 59 months (UNHCR - 19/05/99; WFP - 05/07/99).
Poor rains in May
More generally, a recent FEWS report said that most parts of Kenya remained unusually dry in May, with the exception of the western and coastal areas. The continued absence of rainfall was of "pronounced concern" in pastoral districts, drought-prone marginal areas and some key-grain producing districts in Rift Valley province. The welfare of farm households in marginal agricultural areas was reported to have been significantly undermined and livestock migration in pastoral districts has been earlier than usual (IRIN - 18/06/99). The results of an anthropometric survey by MSF-Spain in the Mandera area of Northeastern province in May have confirmed these findings (IRIN - 23/06/99). An estimated 39.2% of the population surveyed was suffering from acute wasting and/or oedema compared to 21% in January (see Annex). This rate is close to that reported during the severe drought of 1996/97. Many vulnerable people with no income source are reported to have moved to Mandera town from the surrounding districts.
Overall, the nutritional situation of the refugees in Kenya remains satisfactory (category IIc). An unknown number of people may be at risk because of the poor rains.