As the rainy season approaches in Wajir, northeastern Kenya, Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) warns that the substandard water and sanitation situation is creating ideal conditions for a future increase in cholera cases. While today patient numbers in the cholera treatment center in Wajir Hospital are stable, MSF urges for an immediate improvement in sanitation services to avoid another spike in cases.
Since July 2015, some 2,566 cholera patients have been admitted to Wajir Hospital, and 39 people have died. Today, many of the water sources are drying up and a lack of sufficient human waste disposal in the area means there is a high potential for further spread of the disease.
"The outbreak that has been affecting Kenya for over a year now is far from over," says Charles Gaudry, MSF head of mission in Kenya. "Even if patient numbers have decreased, the upcoming rains in March and April will likely revive outbreaks. We need much stronger and immediate emergency measures to be taken, as well as a significant and long term investment, otherwise there is a very high risk that we will see another increase."
Soon after the Wajir epidemic began, MSF deployed emergency teams from Nairobi and Dadaab Refugee Camp, including Kenyan staff and Somali refugee staff. Alongside the Wajir County Department of Health, MSF carried out a health promotion campaign and distributed water purification kits to 5,728 families. When the December rains triggered a significant increase in patients, MSF also provided additional staff to the cholera treatment center set up in the hospital.
MSF has now withdrawn its staff back to Dagahaley Camp in Dadaab and Nairobi, but remains ready to support the Department of Health in Wajir if there is a new increase in cholera cases.
MSF wraps up cholera activities in Dagahaley Camp, Dadaab
Cholera also hit Dadaab’s refugee complex, further south in Garissa County. Since last November, 1,566 cholera cases have been reported among the 330,000 Somali refugees living in the camp in precarious conditions. New admissions have now decreased and MSF is closing the cholera center set up in its hospital in Dagahaley Camp, where 633 patients were treated. Any new cases will now be treated in an isolation ward in the hospital.
MSF also carried out health promotion campaigns in Dagahaley. Additionally, teams worked to disinfect patients’ households within 24 hours of their admission to the cholera treatment center to avoid further spread of the disease in the camp. An around-the-clock ambulance service was also implemented specifically for cholera patients.
Since the cholera outbreak began in Kenya in late 2014, the Ministry of Health has reported over 10,000 cases countrywide. MSF is working in collaboration with the Ministry of Health in 17 of the 22 affected counties supporting patient care and epidemic control measures.