The Kenyan Ministry of Health on Monday announced that the Dadaab refugee complex recorded its first cases of the deadly coronavirus.
Health Chief Administrative Secretary Rashid Aman said that the two cases were from Ifo and Dagahaley camps.
Due to overpopulation, the nature of congestion and poor hygiene standards in refugee camps, the announcement will raise fears of a possible rapid spread of the virus if the situation is not well handled quickly.
A charity organization CARE has expressed its concern saying Dadaab has no health infrastructure in place that could deal with an outbreak. Philippa Crosland-Taylor, the country director said that a potential outbreak would be a “disaster”.
According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the Dadaab refugee complex has a population of 217,511 registered refugees and asylum seekers as at the end of March 2020.
Late last month, the Kenyan government ordered the cessation of movement into and out of both Dadaab and Kakuma Refugee camps as part of preemptive measures to contain the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic.
By then, both camps, located in Garissa and Turkana counties respectively, had not registered any COVID-19 cases. As such, these two cases are the first registered by Garissa County which borders Somalia. For weeks there had been fear that the long porous border between Kenya and Somalia will result in a surge in cross-border transmission of the virus.
Despite this fear, the cases from Somalia have so far come in through Wajir County which borders both Garissa County and Somalia.
Somalia, having recorded 1,455 cases and 57 deaths, is the worst affected country in the East and Horn of Africa regions.
However, on Saturday, President Uhuru Kenyatta announced the closure of the Kenya-Somalia border for 30 days in an attempt to halt the rising cases of cross-border transmission of COVID-19.
As of May 18, Kenya has recorded 912 COVID-19 cases with 50 fatalities and 336 recoveries.