With famine already affecting five zones of southern Somalia, the food security situation in many areas of Somaliland – the autonomous, generally more stable region to the north – has now reached critical levels and is rapidly deteriorating. Having worked since 1991 in the region, International Medical Corps teams on-the-ground are already reaching severely malnourished people with lifesaving nutrition interventions in Somaliland as well as within Somalia, Ethiopia and Kenya.
East Africa has experienced two consecutive dry rainy seasons which has caused extensive crop failure, high livestock mortality and skyrocketing food prices. Coupled with ongoing conflict in Somalia, a humanitarian crisis has unfolded in the region, with the UN reporting more than 390,000 children at risk of starvation.
With support from UNICEF, International Medical Corps is implementing an emergency nutrition program in the Sool and Sanaag regions of Somaliland to mitigate the effects of drought and improve the nutritional status of children under the age of five. Through six Outpatient Therapy (OTP) sites and four outreach teams covering areas where there are no static OTP sites, International Medical Corps is reaching severely malnourished children with nutrition screenings, supplementary feedings of nutrient-dense foods, and medications. The program also includes health and nutrition education that emphasizes the importance of breastfeeding and healthy hygiene and sanitation practices.
International Medical Corps teams have delivered nutrition supplies including ready-to-use foods and nutrition equipment such as height boards and weighing scales to local health centers in Somaliland. Trainings were also conducted for Ministry of Health staff on community mobilization, nutrition screening, micronutrient supplementation, vaccination and referrals. In addition, community health workers were trained on management of acute malnutrition and identification and referral of severe acute malnutrition; community nutrition workers were trained on community management of acute malnutrition; and health care providers and volunteers were trained on provision of nutrition education. As a result, International Medical Corps-supported sites screened a total 10,356 children for malnutrition in the region and admitted 630 children with severe acute malnutrition to the OTP program since its inception in May. International Medical Corps is also preparing to launch nutrition and water/sanitation/hygiene programs in Galgaduud region in Somalia.
As thousands of Somalis are fleeing across borders in search of food, water and other basic necessities, International Medical Corps is also providing a multi-faceted response throughout East Africa. Near Dolo Ado in the Somali Region of Ethiopia, more than 118,500 Somalis are seeking shelter and basic resources in refugee camps.
In Kobe camp, a UNHCR assessment has found death rates have reached alarming levels among new arrivals with an average of 10 children under the age of five dying each day.
International Medical Corps, in partnership with the Ethiopian Government’s Administration for Refugee and Returnee Affairs (ARRA), has scaled up supplementary feeding services for malnourished people, including the provision of nutrient-dense therapeutic foods. To date, approximately 5,000 children and pregnant and lactating women have undergone nutritional screening and were referred to the appropriate level of therapeutic care.
International Medical Corps teams also constructed 136 latrines/washrooms with 200 more planned and have launched a hygiene campaign to thwart the spread of communicable disease in the overcrowded camps. Following reports of suspected cases of measles, measles messaging is being integrated into community outreach work at Kobe to ensure children exhibiting related symptoms are referred to local health clinics for further support.
At Kambioos refugee camp in Kenya, a part of the Dadaab Complex which is today the largest refugee camp in the world, International Medical Corps is also preparing to implement a health post with nutrition services and a maternity center.