Covid 19 infections at the Dagahaley camp within the Dadaab refugee complex are 67 times over the officially reported cases.
A new survey at the camp shows 5,103 persons have so far been infected though official data has only confirmed about 76 cases.
The study also estimates the rate of deaths at the camp to have increased by 42 percent during the pandemic.
Though while the increase in deaths has not been directly linked to Covid 19, the study suggests an indirect association with the pandemic.
Such indirect links, the study posted this week at medRxiv preprints, say include reduced access to health care due to the pandemic.
“Comparing the pre-pandemic to the pandemic periods, we observed a 42 percent increase in the mortality rate,” says the preprint.
This, the team says occurred in tandem with a sustained decline in attendance to health facilities despite the easing of Covid 19 restrictions.
The team reports a 38 percent decline in consultations at health centers, an eight percent decrease in emergency room attendance, and a 37 percent decrease in hospital admissions.
The authors say this may explain the increased rates of deaths during the pandemic. Most affected by the infections and deaths were people aged over 50 years.
Other institutions involved in the study included Doctors Without Borders (MSF), who were the funders, Kenya Medical Research Institute (KEMRI) who approved the survey, Johns Hopkins University, US, and the University of Geneva, Switzerland.
The study had tested 1,206 individuals for Covid 19 using a rapid antibody test and interviewed 12,860 households in the camp to assess the rate of deaths.
The study concludes that the estimated number of people infected with Covid 19 at the refugee camp is much higher than being reported.
It also reports an increase of deaths during the pandemic and reduced access to health with the most affected being those over 50 years.
Due to the high rates of infections, the team recommends urgent efforts be made to restore confidence and access to health care in the camps.
Importantly, the team says only large-scale vaccination of the population can limit the risk of excess deaths from Covid 19.
By Gatonye Gathura
The report is available here: http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3893538 or here: