Category: "Food Shortage"

Measles outbreak in Ethiopia camps sparks alarm

August 7th, 2011

Measles outbreak in Ethiopia camps sparks alarm


GENEVA — The UN refugee agency said Saturday it was alarmed by a suspected measles outbreak in south-east Ethiopia's Dollo Ado camps, where thousands of famine-hit Somalis have sought refuge in recent weeks.

"UNHCR fears the outbreak could lead to high mortality and serious illness in an already vulnerable refugee population whose overall health was already fragile," said the office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees in a statement.

On August 4, health workers reported 25 deaths in the Kobe camp, of which half were suspected to have arisen from measles, said the UNHCR.

Other cases have also been reported in other camps in the surroundings.

Measles rarely kills healthy individuals but can be fatal to malnourished people.

"This situation is alarming and we cannot afford to wait," warned Moses Okello, UNHCR Ethiopia representative.

"We must act now, urgently and decisively, to arrest and turn around this situation," he said, adding that a campaign to vaccinate children was essential.

A team of experts are expected to arrive in Dollo Ado on Sunday to support a vaccination campaign which is to begin August 9.

The Dollo Ado camps host 118,400 Somali refugees, including 78,000 who arrived this year after fleeing violence and what the UN has described as the region's worst drought in decades.

ERITREA-ETHIOPIA: "Silent crisis" as more Eritreans flee

August 7th, 2011
Photo: Maram Mazen/IRIN
The UN refugee agency, UNHCR, has expressed concern over the numbers of Eritrean refugees arriving every month (file photo)

ERITREA-ETHIOPIA: "Silent crisis" as more Eritreans flee

ADDIS ABABA, 5 August 2011 (IRIN)
- More and more Eritrean refugees, mostly educated young men, continue to arrive in Ethiopia, with the UN Refugee Agency, UNHCR, expressing concern over the rising numbers.

"Most say they left their country [to avoid] a prolonged military conscription, but they also say they want to join their families on the road," Moses Okello, UNHCR’s representative in Ethiopia, told IRIN.

Ethiopia hosts at least 61,000 Eritrean refugees.

UNHCR has described the latest Eritrean refugee influx as a "silent crisis", coming at a time when the Horn of Africa has been gripped by the worst drought in 60 years.

Okello said those arriving were in good condition compared with thousands of Somali refugees in Ethiopia's Dolo Ado area in the southeast.

On average, 1,300 Eritreans leave their country for Ethiopia every month, according to government statistics.

"The trend seems non-stop and yet increasing," according to Ayalew Aweke, the deputy director of the government’s Administration for Refugees and Returnee Affairs (ARRA).

Ayalew said: "We are receiving additional refugees of between 1,200-1,500 every month. Most of them are unaccompanied youngsters."

Disputed numbers

UNHCR, however, says about 800 to 1,000 Eritreans reached Ethiopian refugee camps in Shimelba, Maiaini and Adi-Harush in Tigray Regional state every month.

Ayalew said: "UNHCR’s figure does not include the number of refugees coming [through] other entry points from the usual 17 [official] ones."

According to ARRA, some Eritreans come to Ethiopia after passing through other countries such as Sudan and Djibouti.

Kisut Gebregziabher, the UNHCR spokesman in Ethiopia, said: "At the moment, we are counting those that are screened and have refugee status in refugee centres. But we expect to have a relatively acceptable number, once they reach camps and get their status.”

However, Ayalew said to ascertain the exact number of Eritrean refugees was difficult because most of the refugees are nomadic and ethnic Afar. The Afar are also found in Ethiopia.

"They tend to live with the host community rather than coming to refugee centres," Ayalew said.

Gebregziabher said UNHCR had noticed an "unusual trend" among the new arrivals of Eritrean refugees.

"We usually see women and children dominating when it comes to refugees; the case of Eritrean refugees is different, they are mainly young, educated, single men."

He added that most of them came from an urban background, with high-school diplomas and above.

Gebregziabher attributed the shift to their trying to avoid conscription.

During a visit in July, the UN Assistant High Commissioner for Refugees, Erika Feller, said she was "alarmed and shocked" to see "a sea of young faces" and "youth denied for so many people".

According to ARRA statistics, more than 55 percent of these Eritreans are between 18 and 30 years old.

"Most of them are not ready to spend time in refugee camps and that is why we are working on an out-of-camp policy aggressively,” Ayalew said.

In 2010, the Ethiopian government allowed Eritrean refugees to live in urban areas, a move intended to improve their access to services. The policy allowed more than 200 Eritrean students to continue their studies in Ethiopian universities.

“For this year, the same chance will be given to 700 students, after taking a proper entrance exam,” Ayalew said.

Gebregziabher said some of the Eritrean students would be entering universities through a cost-sharing agreement supported by UNHCR.

Resettlement options

According to UNHCR, voluntary repatriation is not an option at the moment. Gebregziabher said the agency would pursue "resettlement as the only durable solution for Eritrean refugees. In fact, those who came before 2008 are expected to benefit from the resettlement programme offered by the United States," he said.

In 2008, the US government agreed to receive 6,800 Eritrean refugees from various camps in Ethiopia.

"Over 2,000 Eritrean refugees have been resettled in the US so far,” Gebregziabher said. "This programme is expected to continue operating."

According to Feller, resettlement placements offered by different countries were limited. However, she said the refugee agency would continue to advocate for an increase in resettlement opportunities.

Apart from the US, Canada, Sweden, Norway, New Zealand and Australia have shown interest in resettling Eritrean refugees.

WFP: Ethiopia's Emergency Food Reserve Near Zero

August 4th, 2011

WFP: Ethiopia's Emergency Food Reserve Near Zero

Voice of America

The head of the U.N. World Food Program (WFP) in Ethiopia says the country's emergency food stocks are almost completely exhausted, with drought conditions expected to worsen before they improve. There are also growing concerns about food shortages in Ethiopia's reclusive neighbor, Eritrea.

WFP's Ethiopia Country Director Abdou Dieng says despite a good response to international appeals for food aid, Ethiopia faces a critical shortfall in emergency supplies. He says the reserve established by the government to prevent a recurrence of past food crises is almost empty.

"There is food reserve, but today it's almost at zero level. We cannot count on that. Now what we are trying to do is increase the level of the food which can be kept in the reserve. We can go up to one million tons [and] we're talking about 80 million people here who need food, so this is exactly where we are working together to try to increase the food reserve," noted Dieng.

Of Ethiopia's 80 million people, Dieng says between 13 million and 14 million are receiving some sort of food assistance. The government estimates 4.5 million need emergency food aid, but experts expect that number to keep rising until the rains come, allowing farmers to plant and harvest life saving crops.

The WFP official says $200 million in donations has been received since the onset of the current drought. Dieng estimates another $100 million will be necessary to meet Ethiopia's needs until the end of the year.

Dieng also said the WFP is monitoring reports filtering out of Eritrea suggesting food shortages there as well. The reports are hard to verify, and Eritrea's autocratic government has denied the drought is affecting food supplies. But satellite images indicate the country is affected by the same weather pattern that has victimized much of the Horn of Africa.

Dieng says Eritrean refugees arriving at camps in northern Ethiopia are saying the Asmara, Eritrea, government tries to prevent them from leaving, and that conditions are deteriorating.

"All this is speculation," Dieng added. "What we know is you can't have a drought in Ethiopia, Somalia, Kenya in a certain area and not having the same [nearby]. But what we heard from the government in Eritrea, they say there is no problem when it comes to food aid in Eritrea. But for people crossing the border and coming into Ethiopia that we interview, we know there is some problem, and we are monitoring that very closely."

Assistant U.S. Secretary of State for Africa Johnnie Carson last month said many Eritrean refugees fleeing to Ethiopia are suffering from life-threatening malnutrition. He urged officials in the Eritrean capital, Asmara, to cooperate with U.N. agencies and international organizations to address the issues of hunger and food shortages.

The WFP's Dieng estimates the number of Eritrean refugees at camps in northern Ethiopia at a few thousand. That is nowhere near as large as the more than 150,000 Somali refugees in southern and eastern Ethiopia, and the even larger numbers in Kenya.

He says the U.N. agency technically maintains an office in Asmara, but has not had any international staff there since 2005, and is not able to monitor conditions in the nation of 5 million.

Horn of Africa shows family planning need - UN agency

August 3rd, 2011

Horn of Africa shows family planning need - UN agency

By Mark John

DAKAR (Reuters)
- The Horn of Africa food crisis shows the need to provide the world's poor with better access to family planning as part of efforts to prevent future tragedies, the head of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) said.

The United Nations has declared a famine in two regions of southern Somalia, where 3.7 million are going hungry, with over 12 million people now in need of urgent aid throughout areas including northern Kenya, Djibouti and Ethiopia.

Despite regular food shortages and high infant mortality, the region's population has more than doubled since it was hit by major droughts in 1974, spurred by factors such as limited contraception use and a tradition of large families.

While stressing the root cause of the crisis was the recent rain failures, UNFPA Executive Director Babatunde Osotimehin said it highlighted the plight of those living in parts of the world where the land struggles to support human life.

Read More from Reuters ...

Ethiopia plans resettlement of people again - will it work this time?

August 1st, 2011
Karel Prinsloo/AP

Ethiopia plans resettlement of people again - will it work this time?

Ethiopia says it is planning an ambitious voluntary resettlement program that will target Ethiopia's pastoral communities in the Somali region and parts of Gambella in an effort to group its naturally scattered semi-nomadic people into permanent settlements.

According to a report by the Christian Science Monitor, the goal is to settle people within their region as oppose to cross-country migration and the settlement will be voluntary. The plan seems to have the blessings of the World Bank according to the report, which said, "A government pastoralist project with the long-term aim of resettlement will receive some of the $500 million for "building long-term drought resilience" in the region, the World Bank said in late July."

Supporting the plan, Eugene Owusu, the United Nations humanitarian coordinator in Ethiopia, was quoted as saying, "The pastoralist lifestyle is becoming difficult to sustain, says "Therefore they need to look at alternative development solutions." Although initially donors were slow to support the program, he has "no doubt" it could have a transformative effect on struggling communities "if it's done well."

During the catastrophic famine in the mid-1980s, Ethiopia's then strongman Mengistu Haile Mariam, settled highlanders across the country to fertile lowlands, which was widely criticized and seen as a spectacular failure.

Will Ethiopia's planned resettlement will work this time around?

Have Your Say