In East Africa, consecutive dry rainy seasons have resulted in the worst drought in more than 60 years. More than 10 million people in the region, including in Somalia, Ethiopia and Kenya, are relying on emergency food aid due to widespread crop failures, food shortages and skyrocketing food prices in already resource-poor communities. The price of grain in affected areas has already increased 30-80%, and, in some parts of the region, up to 60% of livestock herds have died, while the remainder is either sick or dangerously underweight. The price of animals has plummeted by half, while the cost of cereals has soared. The UN describes the growing disaster as the “most severe drought crisis in the world today.” Ambassadors from the region and respective presidents have declared disasters, as have UN agencies.
Somalis in search of basic resources and shelter have been flooding into the Dolo Ado camps in Ethiopia where International Medical Corps has been working for more than two years. Since January 2011, 110,000 refugees have fled across the Somali border into Ethiopia; current daily arrival of new refugees nears 1,400. Three existing refugee camps are full, and two new camps are currently being established. However, refugees are arriving faster than the new camps can be established, and it is predicted that they will quickly reach full capacity. By the end of 2011, approximately 130,000 more refugees are predicted to arrive in the area.
Malnutrition and child mortality are among the greatest humanitarian concerns in this region. Some camps are reporting that 45% or more of incoming refugees are acutely malnourished; a June UNHCR nutrition survey reports that 33% of children at two of the camps are acutely malnourished. Shortages of safe drinking water are increasing the risk of disease, and humanitarian resources are stretched thin.
In response to the current crisis, International Medical Corps' Emergency Response Team (ERT) has been mobilized and is working with the Ethiopian government's Administration for Refugee and Returnee Affairs (ARRA), the UN and partner organizations to complete initial rapid assessments and develop work plans to address the needs of refugees within the camps.
It is anticipated that International Medical Corps will work with our partners to provide: supplementary and therapeutic feeding points to address moderate to acute malnutrition in children and pregnant women; expansion of primary health care training and coordination efforts within the camps and the launch of mobile health clinics to support program delivery; construction of latrines and bathing areas to combat declining sanitation and hygiene conditions that could lead to the rapid spread of communicable diseases; and training of hygiene promoters and community members to further mitigate the threat of disease and multiply the impact of IMC work.