September 18, 2008

Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) is currently witnessing a deteriorating humanitarian situation around the town of Wardher, in the Somali Region of Ethiopia. Internally displaced people (IDPs) are gathering in the thousands on the town’s outskirts, purportedly in search of food and water. An estimated 8,000 to 10,000 people are currently living in squalid conditions; under makeshift shelters, with limited access to water, no sanitation, and the carcasses of dead animals around them.

In response, MSF is providing medical care to both IDPs and town inhabitants from our easily accessible clinic, located in Wardher town. These services are extended to the wider communities within the Wardher and Danood districts through mobile clinics. Activities include a nutritional program to treat malnourished children under five years, incorporating ambulatory therapeutic feeding and inpatient care for complicated severe cases. MSF is further working closely with all relevant actors, including other nongovernmental organizations and government bodies, to assess the situation in order to respond to the growing needs of people in the area. Preparations are under way for improving access to drinking water and sanitation, along with vaccinations against measles and raising health awareness through community health workers recruited from within the camps.

Many of the IDPs, traditionally nomadic people, are saying that in the areas they usually inhabit there is currently not enough food or water to survive. Further, many report the death of large numbers of livestock, on which they depend for food and livelihood. This year’s drought seems to have pushed these already vulnerable people, suffering from protracted conflict and minimal resources, even further into despair.

MSF in the Somali Region
MSF provides primary healthcare in three locations in the Somali Region of Ethiopia: Degahbur, Cherrati, and Wardher town. In recent months, the team in Degahbur have admitted an increasing number of children under five into their program—although recently the number has stabilized. The situations in Degahbur and Cherrati are  not comparable to what we now see in Wardher. Working in just these locations, it is impossible for MSF to comment on the nutritional situation regionally. We continue to run emergency nutritional interventions and ongoing healthcare projects throughout the south and north of the country.

 

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