Severe droughts in the Horn of Africa brought on by consecutive dry rainy seasons, have inflicted wide scale crop failure and food insecurity on already resource-poor communities struggling to survive in the region. International Medical Corps is preparing for an emerging humanitarian crisis in refugee camps in the Somali Region of Ethiopia.
Due to the collapse of state government and ongoing conflict among warring groups in Somalia, scores of refugees have fled to neighboring countries to seek asylum and are struggling to survive in camps in Ethiopia, Kenya, Egypt, Eritrea, Djibouti, Tanzania, and Uganda. The severe drought has only exacerbated the social crisis leading to a doubling of refugee arrivals over the past five months in already overcrowded camps outside Dolo Ado in eastern Ethiopia where International Medical Corps has been operating. With more than 20,000 new refugees expected to arrive per month at Boqolmayo and Melkadida camps, a significant humanitarian refugee crisis is emerging due to a lack of space and adequate resources.
The camps outside Dolo Ado are supported by the Ethiopian government’s Administration for Refugee and Returnee Affairs (ARRA), the UN and national and international NGOs. ARRA is providing primary health care and protection services within the existing camps and planning to erect two additional camps in coordination with UNHCR. To support the additional refugee arrivals, International Medical Corps is developing a workplan to address nutrition, gender-based violence (GBV), psychosocial, sanitation and hygiene needs – extremely high malnutrition rates are being reported among new arrivals in Dolo Ado transit centers.
Since 2003, International Medical Corps has operated a multi-faceted program in Ethiopia, developing local capacities and delivering vital health services to refugee populations. The organization has been working to address drought-affected areas in eastern Ethiopia through nutrition and water/sanitation/hygiene projects funded by UNOCHA-HRF and OFDA. In late 2009, the organization launched a program to respond to GBV among Somali refugees to prevent and manage cases in Boqolmayo and Melkadida camps. International Medical Corps trains refugee representatives, including clan elders, religious leaders, and women’s associations, to mobilize their own communities against GBV. In addition, teams are working to develop a comprehensive referral and response system for sexual exploitation and abuse within camp settings.