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Kenya’s LGBT+ refugees fall sick at U.N. shelter but UNHCR says the outbreak was not linked to conditions at the shelter

Thanks to brilliant reporting from the Thomas Reuters Foundation, it has been revealed that “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”.

According to the refugee representative, about 40 refugees – including three children – were treated at a hospital on the outskirts of Nairobi after suffering vomiting, diarrhoea and severe stomach cramps early on Thursday 24th January.

Mbazira Moses from Refugee Flag Kakuma, a group representing the LGBT+ refugees told Reuters, “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. 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.”

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 has 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 the facility and the diarrhoea.” Yvonne added.

The Thomson Reuters Foundation news reporter 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. U.N. officials told Reuters that it was for their own security.

The LGBT+ refugees, as reported, were moved to their present camp, an abandoned school on the outskirt’s of Nairobi, from Kakuma refugee camp where they were facing attacks.

They were about 200 from Burundi, Ethiopia, DR Congo and most of them from the neighboring country of Uganda.

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 — according to The Thomson Reuters Foundation — most Western nations do not prioritise sexual minorities when considering asylum requests.

Reporting by Nita Bhalla @nitabhalla, Editing by Katy Migiro for the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women’s and LGBT+ rights, human trafficking, property rights and climate change

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