News / Africa

Somali Refugee Camps in Ethiopia Sharply Lower Malnutrition Rates

Dr. Monica Thallinger treats a severely malnourished child at the Phase Two emergency ward of the Doctors Without Borders health clinic at Hilaweyn refugee camp, Dollo Ado, Ethiopia, October 26, 2011.
Dr. Monica Thallinger treats a severely malnourished child at the Phase Two emergency ward of the Doctors Without Borders health clinic at Hilaweyn refugee camp, Dollo Ado, Ethiopia, October 26, 2011.

Sprawling refugee camps have sprung up recently in the parched deserts of East Africa to handle the mass exodus from famine-stricken Somalia. Aid agencies at first scrambled to keep pace as countless starving families arrived seeking help. Child mortality rates skyrocketed to several times above emergency levels. A massive infusion of humanitarian resources, though, now appears to be turning the tide.

Dr. Monica Thallinger treats dozens of severe malnutrition cases each day at Hilaweyn, the newest of four Somali refugee camps in Ethiopia.

"This is a severely malnourished child who did not have proper intake of food for a long time, so we're giving a certain type of milk, because the body cannot handle to take food in the beginning," said Thallinger.



Doctors Without Borders

When Doctors Without Borders opened the Hilaweyn clinic in a still unfinished corrugated metal building in August, children were dying of malnutrition at the rate of more than one a day. Two months later, the clinic's emergency coordinator Aria Danika said they treat 1,000 cases a day, and only one child has died in the past two weeks.

Doctors Without Borders Emergency Coordinator Aria Danika consults with parents of a malnourished child at the Hilaweyn refugee camp, Dollo Ado, Ethiopia, October 26, 2011.
Doctors Without Borders Emergency Coordinator Aria Danika consults with parents of a malnourished child at the Hilaweyn refugee camp, Dollo Ado, Ethiopia, October 26, 2011.

"The crude mortality rate is under 1% right now. And this information we get, it's indicated when we talk to the community, when we do the grave count on a weekly basis, we see that the death rate is decreasing, but malnutrition is still prevalent," said Danika.

Hilaweyn is one of four camps at Ethiopia's Dollo Ado complex, home to 125,000 refugees fleeing Somalia's famine and the harsh rule of Islamic extremists known as al-Shabab.

Newly arrived Somali refugee children receive their first hot meal of cereal at a feeding center run by Save the Children USA at the Dollo Ado refugee reception station, Ethiopia, October 26, 2011
Newly arrived Somali refugee children receive their first hot meal of cereal at a feeding center run by Save the Children USA at the Dollo Ado refugee reception station, Ethiopia, October 26, 2011

5,000 more recent arrivals are in a temporary shelter waiting for completion of a fifth camp that will be ready in a few weeks.

Security becomes priority

30-year old Amina Salat Saman arrived at Dollo Ado days ago on a donkey. She proudly displays the new baby son she delivered soon after reaching the refugee reception station. She said her family survived the famine, but made the hazardous journey from Somalia when security conditions suddenly deteriorated.

She said they were frightened when fighting broke out in the neighborhood between government troops and al-Shabab fighters.

The Hilaweyn camp coordinator, Samuel Emmanuel said security is becoming as important as starvation in Somalis' decisions to become refugees.

"They say we are lucky to get peace and security. Now they are stable, they are sleeping without any suspicion about the surrounding. This is better for them to be here rather than hearing the sound of weapon, hearing when someone is slaughtered in front of their home," said Emmanuel.

Top-notch health care

Camp residents admit they also are drawn to refugee status by the prospect of quality health care, something unheard of in rural Somalia.  

At the Hilaweyn clinic, where the malnutrition death rate has fallen so sharply, Dr. Thallinger is tending to another scrawny baby girl who has been brought back from the brink.

"She's going to survive... We just have to take time for her to get her appetite back," said Thallinger.

With one ear on the radios that bring news of the Kenya military offensive into al-Shabab held territory, camp residents wonder if peace may soon allow them to return to their homeland. They know life in a refugee camp is an existence of nothingness, but they also know that the availability of food and health care compare favorably with the hardship they have known in Somalia for the past few years.

You May Like

Anti-Terror Drills Highlight China’s Push Into Central Asia

China, Russia, several central Asian countries wrap up massive anti terrorism military drills in Inner Mongolia More

Erdogan’s First Step: Secure More Power in New Role in Turkey

Erdogan was sworn in as Turkey's first popularly elected president on Thursday; he picked former foreign minister Ahmet Davutoglu as PM More

Pakistan Army Fails to Break Political Deadlock

PM Sharif claims he didn't ask army to defuse crisis; military rejects claim More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Ukraine Battles Pro-Russia Rebel Assaulti
X
Daniel Schearf
August 29, 2014 9:30 PM
After NATO concluded an emergency meeting to discuss the crisis in eastern Ukraine, the country is struggling to contain heavy fighting near the strategic port of Mariupol, on the Azov Sea. Separatist rebels are trying to capture the city, allegedly with Russian military help, and Ukraine's defense forces are digging in. VOA's Daniel Schearf spoke with analysts about what lies ahead for Ukraine.
Video

Video Ukraine Battles Pro-Russia Rebel Assault

After NATO concluded an emergency meeting to discuss the crisis in eastern Ukraine, the country is struggling to contain heavy fighting near the strategic port of Mariupol, on the Azov Sea. Separatist rebels are trying to capture the city, allegedly with Russian military help, and Ukraine's defense forces are digging in. VOA's Daniel Schearf spoke with analysts about what lies ahead for Ukraine.
Video

Video Growing Business Offers Paint with a Twist of Wine

Two New Orleans area women started a small business seven years ago with one thing in mind: to help their neighbors relieve the stress of coping with a hurricane's aftermath. Today their business, which pairs painting and a little bit of wine, has become one of the fastest growing franchises across the U.S. VOA’s June Soh met the entrepreneurs at their newest franchise location in the Washington suburbs.
Video

Video Ebola Vaccine Trials To Begin Next Week

The National Institutes of Health says it is launching early stage trials of a vaccine to prevent the Ebola virus, which has infected or killed thousands of people across West Africa. The World Health Organization says Ebola could infect more than 20,000 people across the region by the time the outbreak is over. The epidemic has health experts and governments scrambling to prevent more people from becoming infected. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Asian Bacteria Threatens Florida Orange Trees

Florida's citrus fruit industry is facing a serious threat from a bacteria carried by the Asian insect called psyllid. The widespread infestation again highlights the danger of transferring non-native species to American soil. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Aging Will Reduce Economic Growth Worldwide in Coming Decades

The world is getting older, fast. And as more people retire each year, fewer working-age people will be there to replace them. Bond rating agency Moody’s says that will lead to a decline in household savings; reducing global investments - which in turn, will lead to slower economic growth around the world. But experts say it’s not too late to mitigate the economic impact of the world’s aging populations. Mil Arcega has more.
Video

Video Is West Doing Enough to Tackle Islamic State?

U.S. President Barack Obama has ruled out sending ground troops to Iraq to fight militants of the so-called Islamic State, or ISIS, despite officials in Washington describing the extremist group as the biggest threat the United States has faced in years. Henry Ridgwell reports from London on the growing uncertainty over whether the West’s response to ISIS will be enough to defeat the terrorist threat.
Video

Video Coalition to Fight Islamic State Could Reward Assad

The United States along with European and Mideast allies are considering a broader assault against Islamic State fighters who have spread from Syria into Iraq and risk further destabilizing an already troubled region. But as VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports, confronting those militants could end up helping the embattled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Video

Video Made in America Socks Get Toehold in Online Fashion Market

Three young entrepreneurs are hoping to revolutionize the high-end sock industry by introducing all-American creations of their own. And they’re doing most of it the old-fashioned way. VOA’s Julie Taboh recently caught up with them to learn what goes into making their one-of-a-kind socks.
Video

Video Americans, Ex-Pats Send Relief Supplies to West Africa

Health organizations from around the world are sending supplies and specialists to the West African countries that are dealing with the worst Ebola outbreak in history. On a smaller scale, ordinary Americans and African expatriates living in the United States are doing the same. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.
Video

Video America's Most Popular Artworks Displayed in Public Places

Public places in cities across America were turned into open-air art galleries in August. Pictures of the nation’s most popular artworks were displayed on billboards, bus shelters, subway platforms and more. The idea behind “Art Everywhere,” a collaborative campaign by five major museums is to allow more people to enjoy art and learn about the country’s culture and history. Faiza Elmasry has more.
Video

Video Chinese Doctors Use 3-D Spinal Implant

A Chinese boy suffering from a debilitating bone disease has become the first patient with a part of his spine created in a three-dimensional printer. Doctors say he will soon regain normal mobility. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video India’s Leprosy Battle Stymied by Continuing Stigma

Medical advancements in the treatment of leprosy have greatly diminished its impact around the world, largely eliminating the disease from most countries. India made great strides in combating leprosy, but still accounts for a majority of the world’s new cases each year, and the number of newly infected Indians is rising - more than 130,000 recorded last year. Doctors there say the problem has more to do with society than science. Shaikh Azizur Rahman reports from Kolkata.

AppleAndroid