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

Changing Under Pressure, IS ‘Potent’ as Ever

US intel officials describe Ramadi's fall as concerning, but say it isn't emblematic of larger effort to degrade IS capabilities More

Nigeria Fuel Shortage Shows Fragility of Africa’s Oil Giant

Although it is the largest oil producer in Africa, country has nearly ran out of fuel it needs to power its generators, cars and airplanes over the past week More

Arrested Football Officials Come Mainly From the Americas

US Justice Department alleges defendants participated in 24-year scheme to enrich themselves through corruption of international soccer 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.
3D Printer Makes Replica of Iconic Sports Cari
|| 0:00:00
...    
🔇
X
George Putic
May 27, 2015 9:31 PM
Cars with parts made by 3D printers are already on the road, but engineers are still learning about this new technology. While testing the possibility of printing an entire car, researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy recently created an electric-powered replica of an iconic sports roadster. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video 3D Printer Makes Replica of Iconic Sports Car

Cars with parts made by 3D printers are already on the road, but engineers are still learning about this new technology. While testing the possibility of printing an entire car, researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy recently created an electric-powered replica of an iconic sports roadster. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video US Voters Seek Answers From Presidential Candidates on IS Gains

The growth of the Islamic State militant group in Iraq and Syria comes as the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign kicks off in the Midwest state of Iowa.   As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, voters want to know how the candidates would handle recent militant gains in the Middle East.
Video

Video A Small Oasis on Kabul's Outskirts Provides Relief From Security Tensions

When people in Kabul want to get away from the city and relax, many choose Qargha Lake, a small resort on the outskirts of Kabul. Ayesha Tanzeem visited and talked with people about the precious oasis.
Video

Video Film Festival Looks at Indigenous Peoples, Culture Conflict

A recent Los Angeles film festival highlighted the plight of people caught between two cultures. Mike O'Sullivan has more on the the Garifuna International Film Festival, a Los Angeles forum created by a woman from Central America who wants the world to know more about her culture.
Video

Video Kenyans Lament Losing Sons to al-Shabab

There is agony, fear and lost hope in the Kenyan town of Isiolo, a key target of a new al-Shabab recruitment drive. VOA's Mohammed Yusuf visits Isiolo to speak with families and at least one man who says he was a recruiter.
Video

Video Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thought

Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video US-led Coalition Gives Some Weapons to Iraqi Troops

In a video released Tuesday from the Iraqi Ministry of Defense, Iraqi forces and U.S.-led coalition troops survey a cache of weapons supplied to help Iraq liberate Mosul from Islamic State group. According to a statement provided with the video, the ministry and the U.S.-led coaltion troops have started ''supplying the 16th army division with medium and light weapons in preparation to liberate Mosul and nearby areas from Da'esh (Arabic acronym for Islamic State group).''
Video

Video Amnesty International: 'Overwhelming Evidence' of War Crimes in Ukraine

Human rights group Amnesty International says there is overwhelming evidence of ongoing war crimes in Ukraine, despite a tentative cease-fire with pro-Russian rebels. Researchers interviewed more than 30 prisoners from both sides of the conflict and all but one said they were tortured. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Washington Parade Honors Those Killed Serving in US Military

Every year, on the last Monday in the month of May, millions of Americans honor the memories of those killed while serving in the armed forces. Memorial Day is a tradition that dates back to the 19th Century. While many people celebrate the federal holiday with a barbecue and a day off from work, for those who’ve served in the military, it’s a special day to remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice. Arash Arabasadi reports for VOA from Washington.
Video

Video Kenya’s Capital Sees Rise in Shisha Parlors

In Kenya, the smoking of shisha, a type of flavored tobacco, is the latest craze. Patrons are flocking to shisha parlors to smoke and socialize. But the practice can be addictive and harmful, though many dabblers may not realize the dangers, according to a new review. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story for VOA from Nairobi, Kenya.
Video

Video Rolling Thunder Run Reveals Changed Attitudes Towards Vietnam War

For many US war veterans, the Memorial Day holiday is an opportunity to look back at a divisive conflict in the nation’s history and to remember those who did not make it home.
Video

Video Female American Soldiers: Healing Through Filmmaking

According to the United States Defense Department, there are more than 200-thousand women serving in the U.S. Armed Forces.  Like their male counterparts, females have experiences that can be very traumatic.  VOA's Bernard Shusman tells us about a program that is helping some American women in the military heal through filmmaking.

VOA Blogs