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West Africans flood into Kenya through Busia and Malaba

Passengers arrive at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport

Passengers arrive at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport

Travellers from West African countries where Ebola has killed hundreds have devised ways of getting into Kenya through Busia and Malaba since they are barred from entering the country through the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport.

In the past week, 122 people from Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea have transited to Kenya through the two border towns, according to officials.

Dr Ambrose Fwamba, a public health officer, on Tuesday raised the alarm and called for more surveillance following an increase in travellers transiting through Busia.

The high number, he said, was an indication that the two border points were high risk areas.

He said travellers from Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea had either arrived or exited through the two towns.

“The situation is not good at all,” he said. “The county and national governments need to intervene as a matter of urgency to ensure that security personnel are posted along the porous borders to check on the influx of foreigners along unauthorised routes.”

Dr Fwamba said a six-bed emergency ward had been set up at the Malaba Health Centre and specific staff had been identified to be on standby for any possible outbreak.

He urged residents at the border to cooperate with the government in identifying strangers entering the country.

The health officer said it would not be possible to prevent people arriving through the border from the affected countries because that would be against the East African Community integration.

Busia Governor Sospeter Ojaamong said his government had put in place adequate measures to deal with any likely outbreak.

USING ENTEBBE

With the cancellation of flights by Kenya Airways to and from Ebola-hit West African countries, passengers were using the Entebbe Airport in Uganda and entering Kenya through either Busia or Malaba.

“With porous border points, the prospects of Ebola outbreak in the country could be high, hence the need to take precautionary measures to deal with it,” Mr Ojaamong said during an emergency meeting at the customs office.

The governor said the county government was jointly working with the National Government to address the challenges affecting border residents, including the Ebola scare.

County Commissioner Isaiah Nakoru said Ebola was a real threat and the government needed to come up with prevention strategies.

The officials spoke as Health Cabinet Secretary James Macharia downplayed the fears of an Ebola outbreak.

Mr Macharia said the ban on flights from the epicentre of the disease in the West Africa countries took effect on Tuesday at midnight. He told the Nation that no airline from Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone would be allowed to land at JKIA.

“The consequence of defying this ban will result in the airlines being forced back to their point of origin without any passengers being allowed to disembark,” Mr Macharia said.

At the airport, passengers wore face masks and gloves as they left the terminal.

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