Today in Famine: Measles and Malnutritian Killing Somali Refugees in Ethiopia

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees says that 10 children are dying every day from measles and malnutrition in the sprawling Dollo Ado refugee complex in Ethiopia.

An assessment of mortality in one of four refugee camps at the Dollo Ado complex in Ethiopia has found that death rates have reached alarming levels among new arrivals. Since the Kobe refugee camp opened in June, an average of 10 children under the age of five have died every day.

While malnutrition is the leading cause of the high mortality, suspected measles is compounding the problem. Across all Dollo Ado sites we have seen 150 cases of suspected measles and 11 related deaths. The combination of disease and malnutrition is what has caused similar death rates in previous famine crises in the region.

UNHCR is urgently working with partners to respond to the emergency and control the suspected measles outbreak. A mass vaccination campaign against measles was completed in Kobe camp yesterday (Monday), targeting all children between the ages of six months and 15 years. It will continue in the other camps in the coming days.

The UN is also warning that a cholera epidemic will likely spread in Mogadishu.

In the meantime, there are growing concerns that food aid is being diverted to the black market and/or horded by militias. Here’s a video from Al Jazeera.

It is worth pointing out that some amount of diversion is to be expected. This does not seem to me to be a reason to stop giving aid. The vast majority reaches its intended recipients.

Finally, The Guardian reports on the situation in Djibouti, which it calls “the forgotten country of the Horn of Africa crisis.”

The recurring droughts have affected 120,000 people, one in eight of the population. According to the UN, pastoralists have lost 70-80% of their livestock, while food prices have risen 50%.

“Loss of income due to drought combined with the food price crisis has forced vulnerable households to allocate a larger share of their income to purchase food at the expense of health and education,” says the UN.

The worsening security situation in south-central Somalia has compounded problems for the tiny state, host to the only US military base in Africa. There has been a large influx of refugees at the al Addeh refugee camp, whose number is estimated to be 15,000 and growing. This is causing further concern for food security and safe water supply.

Fast Facts:

12.42 million people are in need of humanitarian assistance in the Horn of Africa.

Out of an estimated US$2.4 billion in humanitarian requirements for Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia, $1.12 billion has been committed.