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

Obama: Alaskans Feel Signs of Climate Change

They're seeing bigger storm surges as sea ice melts, more wildfires, erosion of glaciers, shorelines More

Katrina Brought Enduring Changes to New Orleans

The city’s recovery is the result of the people and culture the city is famous for, as well as newcomers and start-up industries More

Magical Photo Slides Show Native Americans in Late 1800s

Walter McClintock spent 20 years photographing the Blackfoot Indians and their vanishing culture at the dawn of the modern age 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.
Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalatesi
X
August 27, 2015 2:08 AM
Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Is China's Economic Data Accurate?

Some investors say China's wild stock market gyrations have been made worse by worries about the reliability of that nation's economic data. And some critics say the reports can mislead investors by painting an unrealistically-strong picture of the economy. A key China scholar says Beijing is not fudging ((manipulating)) the numbers, but that the economy is evolving quickly from smoke-stack industries to services, and the ways of tracking new economic activity are falling behind the change. V
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Shipping Containers Provide Experimental Housing

Housing prices around the San Francisco Bay area are out of reach for many people, so some young entrepreneurs, artists and tech industry workers are creating their own houses using converted shipping containers. But as VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports from Oakland, the effort requires ingenuity and dealing with restrictive local laws.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video Technique May Eliminate Drill-and-Fill Dental Care

Many people dread visiting dentists because they're afraid of drills. Now, however, a technology developed by a British firm promises to eliminate the need for mechanical cleaning of dental cavities by speeding a natural process of tooth repair. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.
Video

Video French Experiment in Integrating Roma Under Threat

Plans to destroy France’s oldest slum have sparked an outcry on the part of its Roma residents. As Lisa Bryant reports from the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, rights groups argue the community is a fledgling experiment on integrating Roma who are often outcasts in many parts of Europe.
Video

Video Kenyans Turn to Agriculture for Business

Each year Kenyan universities continue to churn out graduates for the job market despite the already existing high rate of unemployment among youth in the country. Some of these young men and women have realized that agriculture can be as rewarding as any other business or job, and they are resorting to agribusiness in large numbers as a way of tackling unemployment. Rael Ombuor reports for VOA.
Video

Video First Women Graduate Elite Army Ranger School

Two women are making history for the U.S. Army by proving they are among the toughest of the tough. VOA's Carla Babb reports from Fort Benning, Georgia as 94 men and those two women rise as graduates of the difficult Ranger school.

VOA Blogs