Emerg Nutrition & Health Care, East Africa Crisis

by Save the Children Federation
Emerg Nutrition & Health Care, East Africa Crisis
Emerg Nutrition & Health Care, East Africa Crisis
Emerg Nutrition & Health Care, East Africa Crisis
Emerg Nutrition & Health Care, East Africa Crisis
Emerg Nutrition & Health Care, East Africa Crisis
Emerg Nutrition & Health Care, East Africa Crisis
Emerg Nutrition & Health Care, East Africa Crisis
Emerg Nutrition & Health Care, East Africa Crisis
Food distribution, Kenya
Food distribution, Kenya

Thank you for supporting Merlin's activities to fight the food crisis in East Africa.  As you will read below, there is still a need for our emergency health and nutrition services, due to failing rains and high food prices.

If you were thinking of supporting of Merlin's work again, tomorrow (June 13th) would be a great day to do it.  Those lovely people at Global Giving will give an additional 40% on donations.  So a $20 donation from you, is actually a $28 gift to Merlin.

PS.  Please think about giving your donation early in the day, they only have $75,000 to give away.



Deteriorating food security likely in the coming months

While food security conditions remain relatively stable in many areas due to the October-December 2011 harvest being good and ongoing humanitarian interventions from INGOs such as Merlin, conditions are expected to deteriorate in the coming months with the prediction of low harvests - due to low rain fall at the start of the year, unusually high price of staple foods; and limited availability of bridging foods between now and August.

Longer term weather forecast better

However, longer term weather forecasts (June to September) are on the whole, good. The national forecast for the coming rainy season predicts that seasonal rains should be ‘on time’ and be of a normal to above-normal amount. Unfortunately, they also forecast that the rains will stop earlier than usual, which would shorten the crop season.  There may also be El Niño conditions, which would increase the likelihood of flooding in certain areas.

Continued refugees entering Ethiopia

Ethiopia is still seeing an influx of refugees from Somalia, Sudan and South Sudan, fleeing from conflict and even worse food situations – in Somalia crops are being destroyed by caterpillars.



Food Security Alert

There has been a Food Security Alert from the Famine Early Warning Systems Network (FEWS NET) in parts of the north-west pastoral areas, which includes the Turkana region.  Merlin has been offering emergency food and nutrition services to communities in Turkana for over a year now.

Poor rains mean low harvests

Food crisis levels are expected to hit around September, which marks the peak of the ‘lean’ season - when food in most scarce, but the situation could start any time from now (mid June).  Access to food is likely to decline precariously from July onwards due to a forecasted below-average Long Rains harvest, and above-average food prices. Families will experience significant food gaps and shortages over the next six months.

Disease hits maize farmers

The Food Security Alert announcement comes at a time when at least 70% of the maize crop in Rift Valley Province - the grain basket of Kenya- is reportedly affected by the highly contagious Maize Lethal Necrosis disease. Humanitarian news network IRIN, reports that over 300,000 farmers have been affected, with the Kenyan Ministry of Agriculture warning of a high likelihood of crop failure and increased maize prices during the current season. The Government has moved in to stop the further spread of the disease.


From everyone at Merlin, thank you for your support.  If you feel you can offer another gift, we could definitely use your help.

Nutrition for mothers & children Gode, Ethiopia
Nutrition for mothers & children Gode, Ethiopia
Therapeutic feeding, Ethiopia
Therapeutic feeding, Ethiopia
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Mary and Lucy with their grandchildren
Mary and Lucy with their grandchildren

Looking after the grandkids, where ever you live

Grandmothers Mary and Lucy have visited a Merlin food distribution point in Turkana, Kenya regularly for over ten months.  They want to make sure their grandchildren stay fit and healthy and do not go hungry during the drought and ongoing food shortages - just like any grandmother would want for her grandchildren.

Due to Merlin's and other agencies' co-ordinated emergency response over the last year, malnutrition rates have dropped from 37% to 13% - a massive drop.  Merlin has been working in the Turkana region since 2004 offering health care and nutrition to families in remote areas through outreach programs and mobile clinics.

Mother’s Day will soon be here

There’s a special person in everyone’s life: it could be your mom, or grandmother, or that someone who looked after you when you were sick, told you to study hard and cheered at your prize giving.  

If you want to give your special person a unique gift this Mother’s Day – what about giving a gift towards Merlin’s emergency nutrition work in their honor?  Click on this link http://www.globalgiving.org/projects/emerg-nutrition-and-health-care-e-africa-crisis/?show=gift to give a gift.

Plus GlobalGiving will give Merlin an additional $500 for this project, if we are one of the top 10 projects with the most donors who give gifts. So as you tell that special some one just how much they mean to you, you will be helping us show moms and grandmoms like Mary and Lucy, just how much you care for them too. 

Thank you 

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Echwa Apoa & her daughter Akope
Echwa Apoa & her daughter Akope

From every one at Merlin, I send a huge thank you

Thanks to you and people like you, we have raised this project’s initial target of $10,000.  This is a fantastic achievement and has only been accomplished because you have been so generous in your support of our work.  We have seen results and our teams have definitely been able to save lives. 

Sadly, there is still much to do.  There is an ongoing drought and malnutrition levels (especially in children) are still high.  Merlin’s work will continue, and therefore, the project will remain open with a new target of $15,000. There's a quick update on our work in Kenya below, to let you know about what we are doing now and looking to the future.

It’s Mother’s Day soon, so what about saying thank you too?

Mother’s Day is just ‘round the corner on Sunday May 13th.  But, if you have a mom like mine, when you ask what would she like, she responds ‘oh, nothing really’.  So here’s a suggestion for a unique and special gift to thank her for all she's done for you …what about giving a gift towards Merlin’s work, in honor of you mom, or anyone else who’s really special to you? Let them know they’ve been thought of and they’ve also helped to save a life, offer  care and given hope to a family overseas.

Plus, GlobalGiving will give Merlin an additional $500 for this project, if we are one of the top 10 projects with the most donors who give gifts from May 1st- 13th.  So you could be helping us even more. 

Click on this link: http://www.globalgiving.org/projects/emerg-nutrition-and-health-care-e-africa-crisis/?show=gift and you will go straight to the ‘gift or in honor of’ tab, under the orange donate button on the project page.  Your chosen person will get an email, print-at-home or physical card – you can even choose to have our main project photo as you picture. 

Thanks again, for your support and interest in our work – you know that we couldn’t have done it with out you.



A focus on Kenya

Below focuses on our nutrition and health activities in Turkana, northwest Kenya (other activities include hygiene, water and sanitation).  The pastoralist communities of Turkana are vulnerable to food insecurity, due to the ongoing drought conditions that exist there.

Merlin has worked with the Kenyan Ministry of Health for over a decade, and with the help of local partners offers nutrition and health and care services to some of the most remote communities in the country (if not the continent).  Currently, our teams support 31 health facilities and have over 70 location sites for our outreach, mobile clinics.  Each outreach site is visited on average, once every two weeks.  Merlin was able to use this vast network to help to distribute food and nutritional care quickly and effectively when the food crisis began early last year.

- Merlin teams continue to work via health facilities and mobile clinics, to offer nutrition and health care services to remote communities in Turkana, our program targets over 400,000 people.

- The teams are working with Ministry of Health to clearly map where our mobile clinics / outreach sites are.

Blanket Feeding Program

- The Blanket Feeding Program supplied by the World Food Program and distributed by Merlin teams is coming to an end.  A ‘blanket’ program is when food supplements are offered to all families living in the area, not just specific groups such as new mothers and children under 5 within families). However, there will be ongoing monitoring and the program could be restored if there are future needs.

- Merlin will start work on new nutrition survey in May with survey partners: Oxfam, World Vision and IRC.  This new survey will allow Merlin to compare the seasonal situation with one completed in May 2011, (the last survey was in December 2011).

 New Activities

- Funding has been secured, so Merlin can offer more targeted health care to disabled people living in Turkana.  This new program of activities is scheduled to begin in June 2011.

- Merlin is also exploring the introduction of a new mental health care program

Remember to think about my idea for a Mother's Day gift...

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Health facility set up in Elbreda refugee camp
Health facility set up in Elbreda refugee camp

Thank you for your support of Merlin's Emergency Response to the East Africa Food Crisis.  You will read in this and other Updates, that with your support our work is making a difference and we are saving lives.

Sadly, another food crisis is developing in the west of Africa, in the Sahel Region, that spreads across six countries, including Chad, where Merlin has sent an emergency health and nutrition team  - if you want to read more and show your support, please go to http://www.globalgiving.org/projects/sahel-west-africa-food-crisis-emergency/ 


Merlin has established strong links with local authorities, communities and the Ministry of Health in the areas of South Central and Puntland, where we work.  This has enabled our teams to operate efficiently and effectively in an extremely volatile environment.

Seasonal rains (despite making minor improvements to drought conditions) have impeded relief efforts.  Heavy downpours caused delays in the delivery of food, vaccinations and medical supplies, as many roads became impassable. Additionally, stagnant water and localized flooding increased the potential for the spread of waterborne illnesses.

Merlin’s Activities (July ’11 to Jan ’12)                         

Improving access to health services

  • Merlin supports, eight health facilities, three health posts and five mobile health teams at 25 outreach sites providing primary health care, nutrition, sanitation and hygiene services.
  • A total of 155,661 consultations were carried out offering preventative care and treatment.
  • Teams also continued disease surveillance and responded to outbreaks: 158 measles cases and 206 cases of acute watery diarrhea were managed and treated.
  • Over 68,500 people attended 558 health & hygiene education sessions, that were conducted by community health workers; issues such as why vaccinations and health facility-based childbirth are a good thing, are discussed. 
  • 84 health staff were trained on the management of malnutrition and childhood illnesses. 
  • 50 new Community Health Workers (male and female) were recruited and trained.
  • 6,145 pregnant women and new mothers were screened for malnutrition, given vitamin supplements and offered reproductive advice.
  • 67 Community Health Committees (made up of local people with at least one female participant) were trained on how to secure, co-ordinate and distribute food stocks.

Improving the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of malnutrition

  • 15,734 children under five were screened for malnutrition.
  • 774 children were diagnosed with severe acute malnutrition, enrolled in an outpatient therapeutic feeding program and provided with nutritional supplements.
  • 5 outreach, mobile teams were established (the outreach clinics are set up at a different location each day, in a two week cycle), to increase the screening and referral services available to local communities.

Improving water quality and hygiene and sanitation awareness

  • 58 Community Health Workers were trained on safe water treatment.
  • 12 local ‘Water Associations’ were established, with members being taught how to handle and store safe, clean water.

Strengthening local resilience for faster response to future crises

  • Weekly disease surveillance reports were shared with other NGOs, local agencies and authorities.
  • A disease-control mechanism was established: case management and treatment was enhanced by community education, capacity building of health committees and staff, and the pre-positioning of supplies to combat outbreaks, at health facilities.


Insecurity remains the single biggest issue facing Merlin’s response across Somalia, in particular in Galgaduud. In November 2011, Al-Shabaab, the controlling militant group, banned 16 aid agencies, including UNICEF and the World Health Organization (WHO), from southern and central Somalia - the regions where drought and famine conditions are most acute. This led to limited stock and access difficulties leading to a delay in providing nutritional and medical supplies.

Merlin has developed good relationships with the local authorities and communities, and our work is accepted, provided local laws and customs are respected. Merlin is, and will continue to be, open with the authorities and respectful of their culture to ensure that we can continue to operate.

Long term impact

Merlin routinely works with the Ministry of Health through existing health structures to support and strengthen the capacity in-country to deliver quality health services.  Merlin’s programs are designed to provide long-term sustainable solutions to health care provision.  Therefore, in addition to emergency response activities, Merlin is focused on helping Somalia recover from the crisis by strengthening local capacity in a sustainable way through the rehabilitation of health facilities and water supplies, educating communities in health-seeking behavior, training local staff and building community resilience to cope with future disasters.  

Once again, thank you for supporting Merlin's work.

Elbreda camp on the border of Ethiopia and Somalia
Elbreda camp on the border of Ethiopia and Somalia


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Testing for malnutrition using a MUAC strip
Testing for malnutrition using a MUAC strip

STOP PRESS: Before you read about the impact Merlin has made in Ethiopia, I wanted to tell you about another food crisis that is happening right now, in the Sahel region of West Africa.  A number of countries are part of the Sahel region, and currently Merlin is focussing on Chad.  We have sent an emergency team to the country and are setting up health and nutrition services (similar to those described below) targeting around half a million people, including over 75,000 children.

Merlin is trying to prevent a cases of severe and acute malnutrition now, rather than having to care and cure famine victims in the future.  We plan to be in Chad for a minimum of 12 months.  If you want to read more or give your support, please visit Merlin’s website merlinusa.org, or go to our appeal on the Global Giving webite using key words; Merlin-Sahel- West Africa Food Crisis.


Spotlighting Activities in Ethiopia

July 2011 – Feb 2012

Over 180,000 people benefitted from Merlin’s health, nutrition and water and sanitation activities over the last seven months.  Unfortunately, rainfall in Somali Region was significantly lower than the seasonal norm, and resulted in areas of the region, particularly Gode and Afder (where Merlin work) being in persistent drought. It is predicted that the drought will continue until at least June, 2012, which means that Merlin need to remain until, at least June 2012 too.

Health care & nutrition

  • Merlin supports 10 primary health care facilities.
  • Merlin also operates six mobile health and nutrition teams operating in 30 locations within five woredas (townships) – Adadle, Barey, Gode, Qalaafo and Ber Ano, in Gode and Afdar Zones (counties). 

Each mobile health team comprises of:

-        a nutritional nurse, who screen, treat and educate communities in nutrition,

-        a clinical nurse, offering medical diagnosis, offer treatment and manage ongoing patient cases,

-        a dispenser, who supplies and manages the medicines given out, and

-        a community development officer, the liaison with the local communities and promotes health issues and                care through health education lessons.

  • More than 82,400 people had health and nutrition consultations with Merlin staff.
  • A total of 19,490 children (16,608), pregnant woman and new mothers (2,882) were screened for malnutrition.
  • 3,621 children under five were treated for illnesses such as diarrhoea (490), pneumonia (1,546) and malaria (360).
  • 59,000 people had health education via community group sessions, school forums & house to house calls.  They were given information on health issues, care and prevention eg. basic hygiene and sanitation practices, disease risks (such as malaria & measles) and how to prevent catching and, or spreading illness.
  • Safe (clean) delivery kits were handed out to women in their last trimester and distributed to health facilities.

Water and Sanitation

  • 120 latrines - toilet and washing facilities - were built in partnership with a local NGO Ogaden Welfare and Development Assoc. this meant over 2,300 families (approx. 13,800 men, women and children) had a daily water supply.
  • Three waste disposal pits were also constructed to serve the 2,300 families.
  • A further 8,256 people had improved access to clean water with the distribution of aquatabs.


Mini emergencies – an emergency response within the response

Although Merlin’s Ethiopia team has been responding to the emergency food crisis for over nine months, there are specific situations, where an even more targeted, immediate response is needed.  These situations need the team to move into emergency mode to prevent, longer term health emergency evolving.  The Merlin team have responded in this way on four separate occasions: in three cases (in August, September and October, 2011) the provision of health care, food and supplies were desperately needed in specific woredas.  In the other case (November, 2011) flash floods after torrential rain had resulted in a high risk of water-borne illnesses spreading.  Merlin supplied emergency drugs to health facilities that were providing care for flood affected families. 

3,602 people received health and nutrition services from Merlin, during these ‘mini emergencies’.


Current activities

Many of the families which Merlin serve are continually re-locating due to conflict and tribal disruptions, the natural migration of pastoralist communities and the movement of refugee groups from Somalia.  With this in mind our teams have to plan strategically and be ever mindful of where they locate mobile clinics to offer health care to the maximum amount of people.

Merlin teams are now operational in seven townships of Gode & Afder Zones (counties); Adadle, Barey, Ferfer, Gode, Mustahil, Qalaafo &  Burra Ano and five townships; Arero, Dhas, Dillo, Dugdadawa & Melka Soda, in Borena Zone in Ethiopia.

Thank you for supporting our work – you are helping to save lives.

Training Health Workers, Gode
Training Health Workers, Gode
Hijad with his grandmother Halima, Gode Hospital
Hijad with his grandmother Halima, Gode Hospital


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Organization Information

Save the Children Federation

Location: Fairfield, CT - USA
Facebook: Facebook Page
Twitter: @savethechildren
Project Leader:
Penelope Crump
Westport, CT United States

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