Kenya: Dozens of LGBT+ refugees fall sick at UN shelter

Dozens of LGBT+ refugees living in a shelter run by the United Nations in Kenya were taken to hospital after falling sick on Thursday, days after they complained of overcrowding and poor sanitation at the facility.

About 40 refugees – including three children – were treated at a hospital on the outskirts of Nairobi after suffering vomiting, diarrhea and severe stomach cramps early on Thursday, refugee representatives said.

“At the hospital, we were put on drips and given some tablets, but the doctor refused to tell us what was wrong with us and what caused this outbreak”, said Mbazira Moses from Refugee Flag Kakuma, a group representing the LGBT+ refugees.

“We believe it is because the place is dirty with overflowing toilets and poor hygiene. We have been telling the UNHCR (United Nations refugee agency) for so many days of this unbearable situation”.

The UN moved about 200 LGBT+ refugees – mainly from Uganda but also Burundi, Ethiopia and the Democratic Republic of Congo – in December to the abandoned school on Nairobi’s outskirts, from the remote Kakuma camp, where they were facing attacks.

Earlier this month, the refugees complained to the UNHCR that the shelter had only six toilets for 200 people, which were blocked, warning of the spread of diseases.

But the UNHCR said the outbreak was not linked to conditions at the shelter.

“Samples were analysed for bacterial infection, including cholera, and were found to be negative”, Yvonne Ndege, UNHCR Kenya’s spokeswoman told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

“Samples have been sent for further analysis to the national government laboratory. The assessment team did not establish any connection between the conditions at facility and the diarrhea”.

The Thomson Reuters Foundation was unable to verify conditions at the shelter or meet directly with the refugees, as they are not permitted to leave the facility or receive visitors. UN officials say this is for their own security.

The UNHCR said the shelter was an emergency measure, and they were in the process of finding more suitable accommodation – but did not give a time frame on when it would happen. […]

Kenya’s LGBT+ refugees need speedy resettlement in another country, where they can be free and safe, say rights groups, but this can take years, as most Western nations do not prioritise sexual minorities when considering asylum requests.

Nita Bhalla @nitabhalla, Thomson Reuters Foundation

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