News / Africa

    Somali Refugees Face Harsh, Uncertain Fate in Ethiopian Camps

    The flow of refugees from famine-stricken Somalia into Ethiopia has slowed in recent weeks, but new arrivals are in worse shape than those who arrived months ago at the peak of the exodus.

    We’re here now at the border between Somalia and Ethiopia at the point where refugees are coming across.  The refugee flow has diminished from a high of several thousand a day to now about a hundred a day. But still people are arriving in pretty bad shape.  And the concern of the refugee authorities and humanitarian workers is the deteriorating condition of children as they come across.

    "These people haven’t chosen to flee, and especially these new arrivals have waited until the drought and famine are at a worse critical stage within Somalia, so conditions there are difficult.  Most of these refugees are goat herders, pastoralists, they’re here because their livestock have died, so it’s for that reason they’ve decided to flee because they’re unable to feed their goats and themselves," said Laura Padoan.

    Padoan is the spokeswoman in Dollo Ado for UNHCR, the United Nations refugee agency.  She says many of the new arrivals come with horror stories of life under al-Shabab, the Islamic extremist group that controls much of the famine zone and blocks access to western aid groups.

    "The presence of al-Shabab has been a major cause of refugees to flee Somalia.  There is ongoing conflict between the Transitional Federal Government and al-Shabab.  Many of the refugees have been caught in the crossfire," she said.

    Among the new arrivals at the transit camp is Mohamed Ahmed, who says he has been trying to escape from al-Shabab for nearly two years.  He lifts his robe to show the scars on his legs and buttocks he says were the result of not following al-Shabab’s orders.

    Ahmed says he lost most of his family before he got away. Ahmed says al-Shabab gunmen shot dead two of his wife’s brothers and his seven-year old son while they were trying to leave.  And on the trek to Ethiopia, a two-month old son died of malnutrition. And after that ordeal, his wife is suffering mental illness.

    But while refugees say they are happy to be free from al-Shabab, the life they face as refugees in Ethiopia is harsh and uncertain.  The Dollo Ado camps are huge tent cities far from home in a desolate area prone to severe duststorms, where death and disease are never far away.

    Hilaweyn Camp, the newest, where most new arrivals are being placed, has a child malnutrition rate of more than 25 percent, and a death rate several times higher than what authorities consider alarming.

    Hilaweyn is operated by the humanitarian group Doctors Without Borders, which in one month has built and staffed a health clinic for the burgeoning population.  Already the clinic treats more than 100 patients a day, many of them severely malnourished children.

    Emergency coordinator Voitek Asztabski has traded a comfortable life in the U.S. state of Florida for a tent at Hilaweyn, where he oversees the clinic operation.  Asztabski says despite the alarming death rate, four doctors working round-the-clock are now saving more lives than are lost.

    "Last week we lost eight children, [but] most of them definitely will survive, and the whole team here feels like we are saving lives every day, and this is great and it keeps us going here in these extremely difficult conditions as you see in the camp, constant wind, constant dust.  Everybody’s exposed to it so working conditions are extremely difficult, but saving lives this is what keeps us going.  Every day there’s a life saved," he said.

    Asztabski expects it will be mid-October before the health of Hilaweyn’s refugee population stabilizes. With the entire region in the grip of one of the worst droughts in decades, and a long range forecast of poor rains until at least early next year, officials say the 120,000 refugees at Dollo Ado could be here for a long time to come.

    You May Like

    Mother of IS Supporter: Son Was Peaceful, 'Role Model'

    Somali-American Abdirizak Mohamed Warsame pleaded guilty Thursday to charges of conspiring to provide material support to Islamic State militants

    Factions Shift as Civilians Die in Syrian War

    Scenario likely only to further confuse military situation on ground and potentially worsen humanitarian crisis that already has grown to epic proportions

    Presidential Hopefuls Woo Minorities, Evangelicals

    Four GOP candidates to speak at forum at Bob Jones University in Greenville, South Carolina

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

    By the Numbers

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Two-thirds of World Faces Water Shortagei
    X
    February 12, 2016 7:31 PM
    Four billion people — or two out of every three on the planet — do not have enough water to meet their basic needs. That is far greater than previously thought, according to a new study that presents a more accurate picture of the problem. As VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports, the findings will help policymakers and the public craft solutions to address the threat.
    Video

    Video Two-thirds of World Faces Water Shortage

    Four billion people — or two out of every three on the planet — do not have enough water to meet their basic needs. That is far greater than previously thought, according to a new study that presents a more accurate picture of the problem. As VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports, the findings will help policymakers and the public craft solutions to address the threat.
    Video

    Video Gateway to Mecca: Historical Old Jeddah

    Local leader Sami Nawar's family has been in the Old City of Jeddah for hundreds of years and takes us on a tour of this ancient route to Mecca, also believed to be the final resting place of Adam's wife, Eve.
    Video

    Video New Technology Aims to Bring Election Transparency to Uganda

    A team of recent graduates from Uganda’s Makerere University has created a mobile application designed to help monitor elections and expose possible rigging. The developers say the app, called E-Poll, will make Uganda's democratic process fairer. From Kampala, VOA's Serginho Roosblad reports.
    Video

    Video As Refugees Perish, Greek Graveyards Fill

    Aid workers on the Greek island of Lesbos say they are struggling to bury the increasing number of bodies of refugees that have been recovered or washed up ashore in recent months.  The graveyards are all full, they say, yet as tens of thousands of people clamor to get out of Syria, it is clear refugees will still be coming in record numbers. For VOA, Hamada Elrasam reports from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video Russia Bristles at NATO Expansion in E. Europe

    Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov is meeting Friday with the head of NATO after the Western military alliance and the United States announced plans for the biggest military build-up in Europe since the Cold War. Russia has called NATO's moves a threat to stability in Europe. But NATO says the troop rotations and equipment are aimed at reassuring allies concerned about Russia as VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video To Fight Zika, Scientists Target Mosquitoes

    Mosquitoes strike again. The Zika virus outbreak is just the latest headline-grabbing epidemic carried by these biting pests, but researchers are fighting back with new ways to control them. VOA's Steve Baragona takes a look.
    Video

    Video Mosul Refugees Talk About Life Under IS

    A top U.S. intelligence official told Congress this week that a planned Iraqi-led operation to re-take the city of Mosul from Islamic State militants is unlikely to take place this year. IS took over the city in June 2014, and for the past year and a half, Mosul residents have been held captive under its rule. VOA's Zana Omar talked to some families who managed to escape. Bronwyn Benito narrates his report.
    Video

    Video Scientists Make Progress Toward Better Diabetes Treatment, Cure

    Scientists at two of the top U.S. universities say they have made significant advances in their quest to find a more efficient treatment for diabetes and eventually a cure. According to the International Diabetes Federation, the disease affects more than 370 million people worldwide. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video NATO to Target Migrant Smugglers

    NATO has announced plans to send warships to the Aegean Sea to target migrant smugglers in the alliance's most direct intervention so far since a wave of people began trying to reach European shores.
    Video

    Video Russia's Catholics, Orthodox Hopeful on Historic Pope-Patriarch Meeting

    Russia's Catholic minority has welcomed an historic first meeting Friday in Cuba between the Pope and the Patriarch of Russia's dominant Orthodox Church. The Orthodox Church split with Rome in 1054 and analysts say politics, both church and state, have been driving the relationship in the centuries since. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video Used Books Get a New Life on the Streets of Lagos

    Used booksellers are importing books from abroad and selling them on the streets of Africa's largest city. What‘s popular with readers may surprise you. Chris Stein reports from Lagos.
    Video

    Video After NH Primaries All Eyes on South Carolina

    After Tuesday's primary in New Hampshire, US presidential candidates swiftly turned to the next election coming up in South Carolina. The so-called “first-in-the-South” poll may help further narrow down the field of candidates. Zlatica Hoke reports.
    Video

    Video Smartphone Helps Grow Vegetables

    One day, you may be using your smartphone to grow your vegetables. A Taipei-based company has developed a farm cube — a small, enclosed ecosystem designed to grow plants indoors. The environment inside is automatically adjusted by the cube, but it can also be controlled through an app. VOA's Deborah Block has more on the gardening system.
    Video

    Video Exhibit Turns da Vinci’s Drawings Into Real Objects

    In addition to being a successful artist, Renaissance genius Leonardo da Vinci designed many practical machines, some of which are still in use today, although in different forms. But a number of his projects were never realized — until today. VOA’s George Putic reports.