Not far from the Somalia border in Kenya lies the town of Dadaab, home to over 300,000 refugees in what is the largest refugee camp in the world. Refugees travel long distances, often by foot, without adequate food, water, sanitation, or shelter. They are faced with a host of medical problems which are compounded by the overcrowded conditions and limited access to care in the camps where they live. It is easy for infectious diseases to spread quickly in such conditions. In 2010, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Division of Global Migration and Quarantine (DGMQ) responded to nine disease outbreaks in the Dadaab Refugee Camp, including cholera, H1N1 flu, measles, meningitis, and pertussis.

Every year, the United States receives about 4,000 refugees from Dadaab and 80,000 refugees globally. CDC’s DGMQ provides guidance and oversees the quality of medical screening for resettling refugees, while the International Organization for Migration (IOM) conducts the medical exam on-site. “We carry out surveillance in the Dadaab camp in addition to providing technical support to IOM for the migration health exam. The program participates in outbreak investigations and provides public health support to our partners as needed,” said Dr. Rachel Eidex, Director for DGMQ’s Africa Regional Field Program.

Credit: CDC

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Photo credit:  DFID – UK Department for International Development [CC BY-SA 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

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