Somalia Famine: Death Toll Rises Among Children

Death rates among Somali refugees escaping a devastating famine has reached alarming levels, the United Nations refugee agency reported on Aug. 16. The U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees said that while malnutrition remained the greatest concern among camps of internally displaced people in Kenya, Ethiopia and within Somalia, outbreaks of measles were also responsible for many deaths. An assessment of the mortality rate in one of the four refugee camps in southern Ethiopia found that since June, an average of 10 children under the age of 5 have died every day.

“The combination of disease and malnutrition was what caused similar death rates in previous famine crises in the region,” said Adrian Edwards, a U.N. spokesperson in Geneva, adding that a measles vaccination campaign targeting children between the ages of 6 months and 15 years is ongoing. The majority of refugees arriving in Ethiopia from Somalia are from rural areas, and the camps may be the first time they have had access to health facilities.

Advertisement

The U.N. reports that the latest refugees into Ethiopia are in very poor condition and that 95 percent of them are women and children. A lack of shelter and health care, poor sanitation and overcrowding in the camps could lead to more outbreaks of disease.

As food aid landed in Somalia, U.N. workers distributed some 500 emergency assistance packages at a camp sheltering approximately 13,000 people, more than 2,000 families, close to the Mogadishu airport. The U.N.H.C.R. team described the conditions at the airport site as “grim and dire.” Voices of crying children were punctuated by heavy coughing. Small makeshift shelters with no sleeping mats or bedding are characteristic of the congested settlement. A number of children lying helplessly on the ground were suffering from measles, which refugees say are affecting many in the airport camp.

U.N. relief workers reported that the streets leading to the camp were calm, but that there was clear presence of armed men in the area. Before the current crisis, the Somali capital hosted some 370,000 internally displaced people, who have now been joined by an additional 100,000 who fled into the capital in search of food, water, shelter and medical assistance. Many said they were forced to leave elderly or disabled relatives behind, fearing that they would not survive the arduous journey to Mogadishu, which entailed walking for days without food or water. Some said they had been confronted by Shabab militants at roadblocks and discouraged from travelling to Mogadishu.

Comments are automatically closed two weeks after an article's initial publication. See our comments policy for more.

Advertisement

The latest from america

 10.17.2018 Pope Francis greets Cardinal Blase J. Cupich of Chicago before a session of the Synod of Bishops on young people, the faith and vocational discernment at the Vatican Oct. 16. (CNS photo/Vatican Media)
“We take people where they are, walking with them, moving forward,” Cardinal Blase Cupich said.
Michael J. O’LoughlinOctober 20, 2018
Catherine Pakaluk, who currently teaches at the Catholic University of America and holds a Ph.D. in Economics from Harvard University, describes her tweet to Mr. Macron as “spirited” and “playful.”
Emma Winters October 19, 2018
A new proposal from the Department of Homeland Security could make it much more difficult for legal immigrants to get green cards in the United States. But even before its implementation, the proposal has led immigrants to avoid receiving public benefits.
J.D. Long-GarcíaOctober 19, 2018
 Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, then nuncio to the United States, and then-Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick of Washington, are seen in a combination photo during the beatification Mass of Blessed Miriam Teresa Demjanovich at the Cathedral Basilica of the Sacred Heart in Newark, N.J., Oct. 4, 2014. (CNS photo/Gregory A. Shemitz)
In this third letter Archbishop Viganò no longer insists, as he did so forcefully in his first letter, that the restrictions that he claimed Benedict XVI had imposed on Archbishop McCarrick—one he alleges that Pope Francis later lifted—can be understood as “sanctions.”
Gerard O’ConnellOctober 19, 2018