Kakuma Refugee Camp a Covid-19 'hotspot' after surge in cases

A section of Kakuma 1 Refugee Camp on the Kenya-Somalia border as pictured on June 10, 2018. 

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • Deputy Governor Peter Lotethiro said the virus has killed four refugees so far. 
  • The county has confirmed 267 cases of the diseases since the first one in May, of a refugee who had travelled from Eastleigh in Nairobi.

Authorities in Turkana have issued a red alert following a surge in the number of Covid-19 cases in the country, singling out Kakuma Refugee Camp as a hotspot.

Deputy Governor Peter Lotethiro said the virus has killed four refugees so far.

The county has confirmed 267 cases of the diseases since the first one in May, of a refugee who had travelled from Eastleigh in Nairobi.

"Turkana West, where the refugee camp is located, has 208 cases. Health officials in Kakuma are monitoring 54 people quarantined at local institutions while 27 are on home-based care and in isolation." Mr Lotethiro, who chairs the county’s Covid-19 response team, said.

He also highlighted the case of Lodwar GK Prison but said the situation there was under control.

"A total of 23 inmates who had tested positive for Covid-19 have been discharged from the Kanam Kemer Sub-county Hospital isolation center after recovering," Mr Lotethiro said.

“Security personnel are searching for five positive inmates who escaped from the isolation center after cutting a metal grill at night,” he said, noting the risk they posed to families and the general public.

Testing challenges

The Deputy Governor said that the county's effort to determine the extent of the spread of the virus, especially in the refugee camp,  was being slowed by lack of testing facilities.

The county still relies on the Kenya Medical Research Institute (Kemri) in Kisumu, Moi Teaching and Referral Hospital in Eldoret, Uasin Gishu County, and the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Nairobi.

It has tested 3,891 samples so far.

Mr Lotethiro further said the centers are affected by a national shortage of testing reagents.

"The county government and UNHCR are prioritising establishment of a testing center at Kakuma so that many people undergo tests for us to determine the extent to which the disease has spread before it explodes to other parts of the county."

County Health executive Jane Ajele said 224 of the county’s cases are recoveries and that there are only 39 active cases of the disease.

"The youngest patient in the country is three months old while the oldest is 67," Ms Ajele said.

Authorities concerned

The county had reported a total of 67 Covid-19 recoveries and 21 active cases by August 25 so the surge in cases also has caught the attention of the Ministry of Health.

Mid August, health authorities, led by Chief Administrative Secretary Mercy Mwangangi, noted that Turkana had been on a downward trend but began reporting a rise in the number of cases.

They promised to send experts to investigate the situation.

The Deputy Governor asked residents to continue adhering to Covid-19 prevention guidelines.

"Even if President Uhuru Kenyatta directed all bars to operate, take one or two beers and go home. Don't idle at the establishments and interact carelessly with others,” he said.