News / Africa

US Official Decries Slow Progress Reducing Somalia's Child Mortality Rates

Refugees rest outside in an open area as there is lack of tents at the Dollo Ado refugee camp, Ethiopia, Thursday, July 7, 2011 (file photo)
Refugees rest outside in an open area as there is lack of tents at the Dollo Ado refugee camp, Ethiopia, Thursday, July 7, 2011 (file photo)

The top U.S. official for refugee issues says that despite intensive efforts, relief agencies have made little progress in reducing child mortality rates at refugee camps along Somalia's border with Ethiopia. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Reuben Brigety made the comment as he returned from Dollo Ado, a sprawling camp complex in Ethiopia that houses 120,000 refugees from famine-stricken southern Somalia.

Brigety, the U.S. government’s point man for refugee and migration affairs, has just returned from his third overnight visit to Dollo Ado this year.

He tells VOA that humanitarian agencies have made impressive progress in establishing health facilities and registering the backlog of refugees arriving daily from Somalia’s famine zone. But he said children are still dying at an alarming rate of malnutrition and other complications, such as measles.

"The level of mortality is still as high as it was two months ago. There was a measles outbreak recently, which fortunately actors responded to with a great deal of alacrity. But we’re seeing rates of malnutrition among the young children coming in that are as high as they were six weeks ago, so we have to work harder to figure out how we can bring those things down," he said.

Unacceptable mortality rate

Brigety said at the worst of the four Dollo Ado camps, the mortality rate among children under five is more than 15 per 10,000 per day.

The overall famine death toll among Somalis is believed to be well over 30,000 and rising daily. But the heart of the famine zone in southern Somalia is closed to humanitarian workers. It is controlled by the Islamic radical group al-Shabab, making it is impossible to know how many more are dying.

Brigety said those staying in Somalia likely are in worse condition than those who have made it to the camps.

"Those that remain behind, large numbers of them presumably would like to leave but simply don’t have the physical strength or can’t muster the resources to be able to move," he said. "We know there is very little to no food in the al-Shabab-held areas of south-central Somalia, which is why these areas have been declared in famine, and why we anticipate all of south-central Somalia to be in famine by October."

Breaking al-Shabab's grip

Brigety said newly-arrived refugees he has spoken to usually have little or no knowledge of al-Shabab or Somalia’s political failures that led to the famine. They are just in desperate need of help.

"One young mother, who couldn’t have been more than 20, nursing her little child, said she doesn’t know what the future holds for her, she’s just here and God will determine what happens to her. They have no affinity for al-Shabab whatsoever. These are people that are not political, they don’t have a particular ideology or agenda. They just want to survive," said Brigety.

The U.S. official said sleeping in a tent in the dust-blown Dollo Ado camp gives him a sense of the challenges facing the humanitarian workers trying to save countless children suffering severe malnutrition, measles and more.

"Just from my stay overnight, when I came back to have a shower, I was wiping dust out of my ears for a while and that’s just when I was there overnight. For the people who have to live in that environment, living through constant dust storms and constant heat, they are alive, but beyond that it’s an incredibly challenging existence," he said.

Brigety said his main worry is that famine will kill tens of thousands more people in short order unless the international community is able to intervene in Shabab-controlled areas inside Somalia in what he called “unfettered and robust fashion."



You May Like

Captured IS Militants Explain Why They Fought

Fighters from Turkey, Syria tell VOA Kurdish Service what drew them to extremism, jihad More

Security Experts Split on Kenyan Barrier Wall

Experts divided on whether initiative aiming to keep out al-Shabab militants is long-awaited solution or misguided effort More

Video Philippines Wants Tourists Spending Money at New Casinos

Officials say they hope to turn Manila into the next Macau, which has long been Asia’s gambling hub 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.
Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grievingi
X
Benno Muchler
March 26, 2015 3:41 PM
Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video US, South Korea Conduct Joint Military Exercises

The Eighth U.S. Army Division and the Eighth Republic of Korea Mechanized Infantry Division put on a well orchestrated show of force for the media this week during their joint military training exercises in South Korea. VOA’s Seoul correspondent Brian Padden was there and reports the soldiers were well disciplined both in conducting a complex live fire exercise and in staying on message with the press.
Video

Video Space Program Status Disappoints 'Last Man on the Moon'

One of the films that drew big crowds last week at the annual South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, tells the story of the last human being to stand on the moon, U.S. astronaut Eugene Cernan. It has been 42 years since Cernan returned from the moon and he laments that no one else has gone there since. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Young Filmmakers Shine Spotlight on Giving Back

A group of student filmmakers from across the United States joined President Barack Obama at the White House this month for the second annual White House Student Film Festival. Fifteen short films were officially selected from more than 1,500 entries by students aged 6 through 18. The filmmakers and their families then joined the president and a group of celebrities for a screening of their films. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video VOA Exclusive: Interview with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, during his first visit as president to Washington, gave a one-on-one interview with VOA Afghan Service reporter Said Suleiman Ashna, about his request for a change in U.S. troop levels, the threat from the Islamic State, and repairing relations with the United States and Pakistan. The interview was held at Blair House, late Sunday, in Pashto.
Video

Video California Science Center Tells Story of Dead Sea Scrolls

The ancient manuscripts were uncovered in the mid-20th century, and they are still yielding clues about life and religious beliefs in ancient Israel. As VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports, an exhibit in Los Angeles shows how modern science is bringing the history of these ancient documents to life.
Video

Video Angelina Jolie Takes Another Bold Step

Hollywood actress and filmmaker Angelina Jolie has revealed she had her ovaries and fallopian tubes removed to lower her odds of getting cancer. Doctors say the huge publicity over her decision will help raise awareness about the importance of cancer screening. VOA’s George Putic has more

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More