MSF warns Kenya not to send more refugees to stricken camp

LONDON Fri Dec 28, 2012 9:28am EST

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LONDON (Reuters) - Conditions in a camp for Somali refugees in Kenya are deplorable and a government plan to send in thousands more would pose a major risk to health, medical charity Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) said on Friday.

Kenya has more than half a million refugees from Somalia, which has lacked an effective central government since the outbreak of civil war in 1991.

A series of bombings, shootings and hand-grenade attacks blamed on Somali militants prompted the government on December 18 to stop registering asylum seekers and refugees in urban areas.

A Kenyan official said more than 100,000 refugees must now head to the remote Dadaab camp in the country's remote north. Amnesty International said the order breached international law.

Dadaab camp was set up 20 years ago and already houses four times the population it was built for. Hunger and disease outbreaks are common.

MSF says its inhabitants suffer from overcrowding and poor sanitation that recent floods had worsened.

"The assistance provided here in Dadaab is already completely overstretched and is not meeting the current needs," said Elena Velilla, MSF's head of mission in Kenya.

In the last month, the number of children admitted to Dadaab's hospital for severe acute malnutrition has doubled to around 300, MSF said. Sixty-three of those were taken to intensive care this week after developing serious complications.

Most of the sick are also suffering from acute watery diarrhea or severe respiratory tract infections, MSF said.

(Reporting by Kate Kelland; Editing by Tom Pfeiffer)

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