July 22, 2011

MSF urges all parties in Somalia, neighboring countries, and the international community to improve assistance to the Somali population in the region and remove hurdles preventing the expansion of independent aid in Somalia. 

NAIROBI, JULY 22, 2011—In light of the worsening nutritional crisis in Somalia, the international medical aid organization Doctors Without Border/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) urges all parties inside Somalia, neighboring countries, and the international community to significantly improve assistance to the Somali population in the region and to remove all hurdles that currently prevent the expansion of independent aid inside Somalia. 

The current crisis is mostly affecting the Somali people. To assess the full needs of the population and to expand its emergency response in this complex environment, independent and immediate access inside Somalia is essential. 
 
With limited assistance available in Somalia, thousands of Somalis arrive each week at various camp locations in the border areas of neighboring Kenya and Ethiopia. MSF teams report extremely high malnutrition rates amongst new arrivals: one child out of three suffers from acute malnutrition.
 
Together with their families, they face many delays because of an official closed border policy and administrative hurdles at reception sites—before having to compete for the limited aid available in overstretched, chaotic, and overpopulated refugee camps such as Dadaab in Kenya and Dolo Ado in Ethiopia. 
 
Throughout the affected region, MSF is treating more than 10,000 severely malnourished children in its feeding centers and clinics.
 
“Every affected person should receive aid, inside Somalia or when fleeing to neighboring countries,” said Jean Clément Cabrol, MSF director of operations. “Kenya and Ethiopia host the vast majority of Somali refugees and should prioritize the opening of new camps and improve the existing ones. But the international community has a shared responsibility to help Somalis seeking refuge by ensuring efficient registration, adequate food rations, and shelter in existing and new camps. The current bureaucratic restrictions and obstacles are causing unnecessary delays and all measures should be taken to respond to the emergency.” 
 
Weakened by 20 years of armed conflict, the condition of the Somali population is aggravated by failed harvests due to drought, dying livestock, and high food prices. Ongoing restrictions on the movement of international aid workers and on the supply lines of their organizations have further delayed and limited the aid available to the population.
 
“Our feeding centers operate beyond their original capacity, and compared to last year, receive up to seven times more patients in certain locations weekly," said Arjan Hehenkamp, MSF general director. “We currently treat more than 3,000 malnourished children inside Somalia: some 600 children under five years of age in intensive therapeutic feeding centers, and over 2,500 in ambulatory feeding centers. We urgently need to get more resources in to help all those new arrivals and to increase our response in all affected regions.” 
 
In various locations, such as in the Lower Juba Valley, spontaneous camps are emerging, populated by up to 5,000 people who have fled their villages and rural areas in search of food and help. 
 
“Fighting in Somalia, restrictions on supply flights and international support staff, as well as administrative hurdles, have all contributed to the current hardship faced by the Somali population today,” said Dr. Unni Karunakara, international president of MSF. “It is essential that both restrictions and obstacles to humanitarian aid be removed as the situation continues to worsen.” 
 
MSF has worked continuously in Somalia since 1991 and currently provides free medical care in eight regions of southern Somalia. More than 1,400 Somali staff, supported by approximately 100 staff in Nairobi, provide free primary healthcare, treatment for malnutrition, surgery, water and relief supply distributions, health care, and support to displaced people, in nine locations in south-central Somalia. 
 
MSF does not accept any government funding for its projects in Somalia. All its funding comes from private donors.