Thousands of Somali people are fleeing their country for survival and in hope of a better life for their children and themselves. They arrive with very little except for the clothes they are wearing, some extra pieces of fabric and, if they are lucky, jerry cans. These ‘jerry cans’ are simply old, plastic oil containers.
During their journeys, which for some take up to two months by foot, there are very few, if any remaining water sources on their path suitable for drinking due to the drought in East Africa. Jerry cans are the only way to carry this basic necessity with them.
By the time they reach the refugee camps, these water containers are often filled with green algae and offer a breeding place for many types of diseases.
In response, International Medical Corps ran a week-long “Jerry Can Hygiene Campaign” in Kobe Refugee Camp from August 1-5, to help families clean their water containers. Kobe is one of four camps set up to serve the 118,000 and counting refugees streaming to the Dolo Ado area of Ethiopia where we have been working in partnership with the Ethiopian Government’s Administration for Refugee and Returnee Affairs (ARRA) to provide nutrition, sanitation, hygiene and gender-based violence services.
Through the use of sifted river sand - which can easily be found in the local area - and a simple chlorine solution, 1,700 jerry cans were cleaned during this campaign to ensure people do not continue to use containers that are unsafe for storing drinking water. Many families were able to take part in the campaign and learn from volunteers from their own community who were trained by International Medical Corps on how to keep their drinking water safe.
International Medical Corps is also planning to distribute hygiene kits including basic necessities like soap and has started constructing latrines and washrooms to ensure safe sanitation in the camps.
For more than 30 days, Aneb Mohamed, a 32-year-old mother of seven, traveled from the Gedo area in Somalia, across the border into Ethiopia, all in hope of finding safety and a better future for herself and her children. Back in Somalia, Aneb had made a living for her family by running a small shop selling general goods. In the midst of the crisis, her house and shop were burned down, and with the failing rains and no food, she and her family began the long trek out of Somalia. By the time they reached the Dolo Ado refugee camps in Ethiopia, one of her children had died and her youngest son was very ill. When Aneb and her family were placed in the newly opened Kobe Refugee camp, she took him to International Medical Corps’ nutrition program, where our staff immediately began giving him nutritional supplements. “After only one week, he is looking healthy again,” said Aneb. “He is smiling and happy. This is all thanks to International Medical Corps! I don’t have to worry about his food anymore.”
With more than two decades working in the field with International Medical Corps, Stephen Tomlin, Vice President for Program Policy and Planning, offers rare insight into the humanitarian crisis in East Africa. In addition to establishing International Medical Corps’ program in Somalia in 1991, Stephen helped launch our programs in Rwanda, Bosnia and Honduras.
I’m on my way to East Africa, where the world’s worst humanitarian disaster is affecting some 12 million people. I have a strong personal connection to this region -- twenty years ago, I ran International Medical Corps' response to another famine in Somalia. Even now, I vividly remember the suffering of sons, daughters, fathers, mothers, malnourished and in pain. Today, two years without rain has turned crop fields into dried clay, causing widespread food shortages and famine throughout Somalia. Without any food and no end to the drought in sight, millions are struggling to survive. Many of those fleeing to refugee camps in Kenya and Ethiopia are dying along the way. Two decades since responding to that first crisis, we’ve developed huge networks within Somalia, as well as Kenya, and Ethiopia. Our staff and partners on the ground – physicians, nurses, and health care workers we’ve trained – have mobilized and are providing medical, nutrition and other services. Our work in East Africa has never been more important – to learn more about our emergency response, please take a few minutes to watch this video. Thank you -- your support has allowed us to respond to this massive crisis and save lives. Sincerely, Stephen Tomlin Vice President, Program Policy and Planning International Medical Corps
As the humanitarian community declares famine in parts of southern Somalia, increasing numbers of Somalis affected by the drought in East Africa are fleeing across the country’s borders in search of food, clean water and shelter. Having delivered health care services since 1992 in the region, International Medical Corps teams on the ground in Somalia, Ethiopia, and Kenya are working rapidly to provide humanitarian relief. Defined by an acute malnutrition rate of greater than 30 percent of the population, famine calls for critically urgent protection of human lives and vulnerable groups. In some areas in southern Somalia nearly half the population is malnourished and more than one in four people are severely malnourished - twice the threshold for a humanitarian emergency and the highest malnutrition rate in the world. The World Health Organization (WHO) is reporting that 11 million across the region are affected and more than 1,700 are fleeing per day over the Somali border en route to overcrowded refugee camps in neighboring countries including Ethiopia and Kenya – many are dying along the way. "We are extremely concerned that more than 33 percent of children arriving at some camps are acutely malnourished and need immediate intervention. This in addition to the many children who are not able to survive the difficult journey to the camps,” said Chris Skopec, Director of International Operations for International Medical Corps. “Our teams are already working to establish nutrition programs and meet health needs, but this crisis will require a large and long-term response.” Near Dolo Ado in the Somali Region of Ethiopia, International Medical Corps is working with the Ethiopian Government’s Administration for Refugee and Returnee Affairs to provide immediate relief for drought-affected Somalis seeking asylum and basic resources in refugee camps including Boqolmayo, Melkadida, Kobe and Halewen. Having worked in the local camps since 2009, International Medical Corps is well placed to immediately mobilize its local resources and community network to effectively deliver nutrition, sanitation, hygiene, mental health and reproductive health services to the most vulnerable. As more than 45 percent of new arrivals at the camps are reported to be suffering from severe acute malnutrition, International Medical Corps is implementing supplementary feeding points throughout the camps as well as targeted nutrition services for infants and young children. As overcrowded camp conditions have “increased the risk of the spread of infectious diseases like polio, cholera and measles” according to the World Health Organization, International Medical Corps is also working with local health authorities to safeguard sanitation and hygiene conditions. The organization will construct additional latrines and bathing areas and disseminate hygiene education amongst new arrivals to thwart the spread of infectious disease. In addition, International Medical Corps will continue to provide gender-based violence as well as mental health and reproductive health services including the provision of healthcare for pregnant women. International Medical Corps’ national team in Ethiopia will continue to work with the Ministry of Health to strengthen local capacity, fill gaps and meet humanitarian needs throughout Ethiopia. In Kenya, where the government has declared the drought a national disaster, International Medical Corps is already expanding the organization’s existing nutrition services in three areas hard-hit by the drought: Samburu, Tana River and Isiolo. As the number of Somalis in need of emergency humanitarian assistance has increased by 50 percent since April, International Medical Corps is preparing to address nutrition and WASH needs in Central Somalia and is already addressing nutrition needs in Somaliland.
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Resource Development Officer