Friday, July 22, 2011

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Millions facing misery in Somalia famine

  • Friday, July 22, 2011
  • Aruntha Kanagaratnam
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  • Ethiopia: Struggling through parched bush and baking heat, Rahmo Mohammed brought her severely malnourished son Saeed to Ethiopia’s Kobe refugee camp to save him.

    That was three weeks ago, and he is still not better, his frail body too sick to accept medicine.

    “He’s getting worse. I would like to get him more medicine,” his mother said sadly. “Even when they give him medicine, he will not take it.”

    Mohammed, along with tens of thousands of Somalis like her, walked for days in desperate search of relief from the extreme drought, the most severe food crisis in Africa for two decades.

    Famine has hit two southern Somali regions, with up to 350,000 people affected there, the UN said on Wednesday.

    Conflict-ridden Somalia is the worst affected nation, but the drought has hit parts of Kenya, Uganda, Ethiopia and Djibouti, with 12 million people needing emergency aid. Saeed is one of 2,200 children receiving emergency feeding treatment from Doctors without Borders (MSF) at Dolo Ado, a dust-blown camp on Ethiopia’s border with Somalia.

    The camp has some of the highest malnutrition rates in the world, with a death rate of seven per 10,000 people, or seven times the normal rate, according to the UN refugee agency, UNHCR.

    “The mortality rates are very, very high,” said Jo Hegenauer, UNHCR’s emergency coordinator.

    “They haven’t gone down yet, we’re trying to reduce the number of people who are dying from malnutrition,” he added. But many of the children arriving at the camp are too malnourished to be saved, said Joe Belliveau, MSF manager for Ethiopia, Somalia and Somaliland. “The fact that they’re showing up in a state that is so far gone, (and) that with immediate, urgent medical attention they still succumb, indicates a horrendous situation he said. AFP

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