Horn of Africa: Food Crisis Intensifies for Ethiopians and Among Somali Refugees

Nearly half of all children at risk of life-threatening malnutrition in refugee camp along Somalia-Ethiopia border
ACF Workers measure children for malnutrition. Photo: S. Hauenstein Swan

As thousands of Somali families continue to pour into the Dollo Ado camps of Ethiopia seeking refuge from drought and devastating food crises, Action Against Hunger is racing to scale up its programs in response to extremely high malnutrition rates among refugees and heightened food insecurity among Ethiopians in the South.

Action Against Hunger’s programs seek to address the needs in Hiloweyn camp, the newest refugee camp to open in Dollo Ado, which now houses some 25,000 refugees. Since August, incoming rates have only accelerated: 4,200 refugees arrived during the first 10 days of October alone. And as Somali refugees gather in camps along the Ethiopian border, some 4.5 million Ethiopians are themselves facing threatening levels of food insecurity as a result of the ongoing crisis. According to the Ethiopian government, the country has experienced a 40 percent increase in food insecurity across the country.

Already present in Ethiopia’s southern and eastern regions of SNNPR, Oromiya, and Somali Region, Action Against Hunger has scaled up its nutrition and water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) programs in partnership with the Ethiopian Ministry of Health. It has also launched an emergency nutrition program to treat and reduce malnutrition in the sprawling refugee camps along the Somalia-Ethiopia border.

Dollo Ado: Nearly Half the Children in Hiloweyn Camp Malnourished

Dollo Ado’s four camps now house nearly 130,000 refugees—90,000 have arrived this year alone—and nutritional screenings conducted by Action Against Hunger in the newly opened Hiloweyn camp in August found massive rates of acute malnutrition: 6 out of every 10 children under five years of age (66 percent) were acutely malnourished, which is more than four times the official emergency threshold (15 percent), and nearly one in two children under 18 years of age have come to Dollo Ado malnourished. Since August, malnutrition rates in children under five have decreased slightly to 45 percent, but remain at alarming levels.Among pregnant and breastfeeding women, 38 percent have been categorized as acutely malnourished.

Action Against Hunger has established three treatment centers for acute malnutrition—two in Hiloweyn and one in the transit center, which hosts refugees before they are relocated to one of the camps. Since the beginning of August, ACF’s nutritionists have treated 6,180 people there for severe acute malnutrition. To try and prevent further malnutrition, Action Against Hunger workers have also handed out supplementary food distributions to children under 12 and pregnant and breastfeeding women. In September, more than 15,000 refugees received supplementary food supplies of two kilograms each week. Field workers have also constructed mother-and-baby tents to promote breastfeeding and improve care practices for mothers and their children.

Southern Ethiopia: Scaling up Water & Sanitation, Nutrition and Animal Health Programs

Faced with the deteriorating situation across southern and eastern Ethiopia, Action Against Hunger has partnered with the Ethiopian Administration for Refugees and Returnee Affairs (ARRA) on the management of malnutrition and increased programs in the Korahe zone of the Somali region, assisting more than 50,000 people. Programs include water distributions and nutrition activities in health centers in partnership with the Ministry of Health. The aid agency is also supporting farmers through livestock vaccinations. So far, more than 230,000 animals have been treated against common diseases.