An additional half-million people in East Africa are now in desperate need of humanitarian relief, bringing the number to 11.6 million people across the drought-stricken region. International Medical Corps is expanding its existing operations and deploying additional emergency teams to provide critical nutrition and health interventions to families from southern Somalia who are crossing into Kenya and Ethiopia. At some camps, one in four children under five are severely malnourished when they arrive.
“Communities throughout East Africa are reeling from the effects of the drought, crop failure and rising food prices,” said Chris Skopec, Director of International Operations for International Medical Corps. “What’s more, the influx of refugees could undermine the health and stability of the entire region. International Medical Corps has mobilized all of our local teams to respond immediately to this crisis – and will continue to scale up to meet the rising needs.”
Near Dolo Ado in the Somali Region of Ethiopia, more than 115,000 Somali refugees reside in three camps with another 1,700 awaiting placement in transit centers. More than 45 percent of arrivals are suffering from acute malnutrition. International Medical Corps, in partnership with the Ethiopian Government’s Administration for Refugee and Returnee Affairs (ARRA), has begun scaling up supplementary feeding services for malnourished people, including the provision of nutrient-dense therapeutic foods and vegetable oil. Teams have also trained ARRA staff to strengthen the referral pathway for children suffering from malnutrition into the appropriate nutrition treatment services at the camps.
As overcrowded camp conditions have increased the risk of the spread of infectious diseases, such as polio, cholera and measles, International Medical Corps is also working with local health authorities to safeguard sanitation and hygiene conditions. Teams are constructing 35 additional latrines and washrooms and will disseminate hygiene education for new arrivals. In addition, International Medical Corps is providing gender-based violence awareness training for community leaders and will also implement mental health and reproductive health services, including the provision of healthcare for pregnant women. A team is also assessing needs among the Ethiopian host population surrounding the camps where local resources have been stretched thin due to the influx of arrivals.
In the Oromiya Region and the adjacent Southern Nations, Nationalities and People’s Region (SNNPR) of Ethiopia, International Medical Corps is implementing nutrition programs for drought-affected communities. The programs support malnourished children and pregnant and lactating mothers with therapeutic feeding services as well as nutrition education through the use of community-based health extension workers.
In Kenya, where the government has declared the drought a national disaster, International Medical Corps is assessing needs in refugee camps in northeastern Kenya, as well as expanding existing nutrition services in four areas hard-hit by the drought: Samburu, Isiolo, Tana River, and Laikipia.
Three refugee camps are currently open in the northeastern region in the Dadaab complex – the largest refugee camp in the world. As approximately 1,300 Somalis a day – with reports of 1,700 arriving Wednesday alone – are now arriving in Dadaab, new camps are being established including Kambioos camp. An International Medical Corps assessment team recently visited the Dadaab complex and plans to provide nutrition, health care and gender-based violence services in Kambioos.
In Samburu, Isiolo, Tana River and Laikipia districts, International Medical Corps has been working in partnership with UNICEF to deliver high-impact nutrition interventions in existing health facilities and at the community level. The organization will be expanding existing programs to reach a larger target population with critical nutrition services including supplementary feeding, outpatient therapeutic feeding and provision of nutrition supplies including Ready-to-Use Therapeutic Foods, vitamins and oil.
Within Somalia, International Medical Corps is addressing nutrition needs in Somaliland and preparing to address emergency nutrition and water/sanitation/hygiene (WASH) needs in Central Somalia. In Somaliland, International Medical Corps with support from UNICEF is implementing an emergency nutrition program in Sool and Sanaag regions to mitigate the effects of drought and improve the nutrition status of children under the age of 5. The organization reaches severely malnourished children with lifesaving nutrition interventions and pregnant and lactating mothers with micronutrient supplementation tablets.
Through funding from USAID’s Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance, International Medical Corps will also implement nutrition and WASH resources for drought-affected communities in Abudwak district of Galgaduud region in Central Somalia. The program will work to mitigate the effects of the current drought as well as strengthen the capacity of the local population to more effectively deal with disasters in the future. Teams will focus on managing severe and moderate acute malnutrition, implementing nutrition education and behavior change as well as improving water supply and sanitation.