Doctors Without Borders Escalates Feeding Program in Ethiopia

An Estimated 3,000 to 4,000 Children Suffer from Acute Malnutrition in Damot Gale District, Southern Region

New York, May 14, 2003 - Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) is escalating the nutritional emergency intervention the organization launched in Damot Gale District, Wollayita Zone, Southern Region of Ethiopia (SNNPRS) on April 23rd.

A survey conducted by MSF between April 7th and 15th showed a critical nutritional status of children under 5 years of age in the district. According to the results of the survey, an estimated number of 3,000 to 4,000 children are currently acutely malnourished and in need of immediate medical and nutritional assistance. The results of the survey show a 27.5% prevalence of Global Acute Malnutrition and 8.2% of Severe Acute Malnutrition.

In order to respond to this emergency situation, MSF has opened two Therapeutic Feeding Centers (medical rehabilitation for severely malnourished children) in Boditi and Buge, in which 250 children have already been admitted and treated. MSF will seek to extend its capacity in the near future: On Monday, May 19th, a preventive distribution of high-energy food rations will start for 22,000 children. Furthermore, a Supplementary Feeding Program will be implemented as soon as possible to prevent the deterioration of the nutritional status of the many moderately malnourished children. An MSF emergency team of 250 staff will handle the project.

Wollayita is regularly affected by acute nutritional crises, mainly due to the high population density in the area (602 people/km2), an under-developed agriculture, and a deficient early warning system - problems that were exacerbated this year by climatic conditions. In 2000, MSF intervened in Damot Gale District by implementing a similar type of emergency response.

"We urgently need an effective General Food Distribution by the concerned actors to prevent a further deterioration of the situation until the next harvest," explains Laurent Ligozat, head of the MSF emergency unit in Geneva.

The relevant authorities have realized the gravity of this critical situation during the past days. They promised to review the number of beneficiaries targeted by their regular food distribution, taking into account the results of the recent MSF survey, and to implement the distribution of extra rations.

"We will closely monitor whether adequate food rations will finally arrive in the district and reach the most vulnerable," says Ligozat.