UNHCR experts sent to remote Ethiopian area to help 18,000 Somalis

News Stories, 23 August 2011

© UNHCR/S.Modola
UNHCR and other humanitarian aid organizations have been trying to help as many displaced Somalis as possible inside and outside the country.

NAIROBI, Kenya, August 23 (UNHCR) The UN refugee agency has sent a team of experts in several disciplines to a remote area of eastern Ethiopia where some 18,000 Somali refugees are in urgent need of aid after fleeing their country.

The UNHCR team sent to Gode includes specialists in health, nutrition, protection, field coordination and registration. They have been deployed in coordination with the Ethiopian government, other agencies and non-governmental organizations (NGO) as part of a response to the influx at Gode.

"Their task is to profile and register the newly arrived refugees, identify needs and deliver aid. We will also help transport those refugees who are willing to be relocated to the existing camps in Dollo Ado," some 250 kilometres to the south of Gode, said UNHCR spokesman Adrian Edwards.

To meet the needs of the arrivals in Gode, who have fled drought, famine and conflict, UNHCR plans to airlift sufficient aid for 20,000 people to Ethiopia by the end of the week. The aid includes shelter items and household goods. Some 3,000 tents, supplied locally, are also being rushed to the area.

"A priority for us remains the need to save lives among this badly weakened population. Ensuring that new arrivals get food, water and medical attention is critically important," Edwards said. Several NGOs with field presences in the area are making limited interventions in the areas of health, nutrition and provision of water. UNHCR will provide additional support where necessary.

Edwards also said UNHCR was still concerned about the persistently high mortality rate at the Kobe camp in the Dollo Ado area. A major cause of death is suspected measles. The high prevalence of acute malnutrition, combined with poor hygiene practices, is compounding the problem.

A mass immunization campaign was conducted last week for children between the ages of six months and 15 years. It will take 10-14 days for the vaccine to be effective and thus for the mortality rates to drop. Together with the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF), UNHCR has just completed a second mass measles campaign in the Melkadida camp. Polio vaccination and screening for malnutrition were carried out at the same time for children.

In Somalia itself, distributions of emergency assistance packages have been continuing in the capital, Mogadishu, and southern parts of the country. Despite these deliveries, there are still many needs in the makeshift settlements in southern and central Somalia that accommodate many of the country's estimated 1.4 million internally displaced people. In addition to shelter, people also need food, access to clean water and medical facilities.

To meet the existing needs, a further 20,000 aid packages are to be sent by boat later this week from Dubai to Mogadishu. They will be distributed across southern Somalia. In June and July alone, UNHCR aid distributions inside Somalia have tripled, reaching more than 180,000 people.

In Kenya, meanwhile, UNHCR continues to relocate refugees from the outskirts of the three camps that comprise the Dadaab refugee complex (Ifo, Dagahaley and Hagadera). Refugees are being transported by bus to new sites. As of Monday, more than 18,000 refugees had been moved to the Ifo3 site. Relocation of refugees to the Ifo2 area, which began on August 18, is continuing. So far, 3,800 refugees have been moved to this site.

Last Friday, UNHCR also began moving refugees from the outskirts of the Hagadera camp to the Kambioos site. "As of yesterday we had moved more than 1,100 refugees to this site, which has capacity for up to 120,000 people," spokesman Edwards said. The three Dadaab camps host an estimated 440,000 refugees. On average, around 1,200 refugees arrive from Somalia every day.




Crisis in Horn of Africa

UNHCR country pages

Public Health

The health of refugees and other displaced people is a priority for UNHCR.

Health crisis in South Sudan

There are roughly 105,000 refugees in South Sudan's Maban County. Many are at serious health risk. UNHCR and its partners are working vigorously to prevent and contain the outbreak of malaria and several water-borne diseases.

Most of the refugees, especially children and the elderly, arrived at the camps in a weakened condition. The on-going rains tend to make things worse, as puddles become incubation areas for malaria-bearing mosquitoes. Moderately malnourished children and elderly can easily become severely malnourished if they catch so much as a cold.

The problems are hardest felt in Maban County's Yusuf Batil camp, where as many as 15 per cent of the children under 5 are severely malnourished.

UNHCR and its partners are doing everything possible to prevent and combat illness. In Yusuf Batil camp, 200 community health workers go from home to home looking educating refugees about basic hygene such as hand washing and identifying ill people as they go. Such nutritional foods as Plumpy'nut are being supplied to children who need them. A hospital dedicated to the treatment of cholera has been established. Mosquito nets have been distributed throughout the camps in order to prevent malaria.

Health crisis in South Sudan

UNHCR and Partners Tackle Malnutrition in Mauritania Camp

The UN refugee agency has just renewed its appeal for funds to help meet the needs of tens of thousands of Malian refugees and almost 300,000 internally displaced people. The funding UNHCR is seeking is needed, among other things, for the provision of supplementary and therapeutic food and delivery of health care, including for those suffering from malnutrition. This is one of UNHCR's main concerns in the Mbera refugee camp in Mauritania, which hosts more than 70,000 Malians. A survey on nutrition conducted last January in the camp found that more than 13 per cent of refugee children aged under five suffer from acute malnutrition and more than 41 per cent from chronic malnutrition. Several measures have been taken to treat and prevent malnutrition, including distribution of nutritional supplements to babies and infants, organization of awareness sessions for mothers, increased access to health facilities, launch of a measles vaccination campaign and installation of better water and sanitation infrastructure. Additional funding is needed to improve the prevention and response mechanisms. UNHCR appealed last year for US$144 million for its Mali crisis operations in 2013, but has received only 32 per cent to date. The most urgent needs are food, shelter, sanitation, health care and education.

The photographs in this set were taken by Bechir Malum.

UNHCR and Partners Tackle Malnutrition in Mauritania Camp

Bonga Camp, Ethiopia

Bonga camp is located in the troubled Gambella region of western Ethiopia. But it remains untouched by the ethnic conflicts that have torn nearby Gambella town and Fugnido camp in the last year.

For Bonga's 17,000 Sudanese refugees, life goes on despite rumblings in the region. Refugee children continue with school and play while their parents make ends meet by supplementing UNHCR assistance with self-reliance projects.

Cultural life is not forgotten, with tribal ceremonies by the Uduk majority. Other ethnic communities – Shuluks, Nubas and Equatorians – are welcome too, judging by how well hundreds of newcomers have settled in after their transfer from Fugnido camp in late 2002.

Bonga Camp, Ethiopia

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Ali and his family are ready to return to Somalia after living in Dadaab refugee camp for the past five years. We follow their journey from packing up their home in the camp to settling into their new life back in Somalia.