Cycles of drought and hunger
Ethiopia, Africa’s oldest independent nation, today faces two significant challenges.
One is drought, which has left an estimated 7.8 million people in need of humanitarian food assistance for their survival in the short-term and possibly longer. Ethiopia’s second challenge stems from a large and growing refugee population who have fled armed conflicts in neighbouring countries, including Somalia and South Sudan. International Medical Corps is providing important aid to address both these crises, including primary health care, mental health care and psychosocial support, nutrition, safe drinking water and hygiene assistance. We also administer a successful development program to improve the quality and diversity of household diet by supporting livestock ownership.
Drought Response: The drought in Ethiopia, driven by the changing weather patterns of El Niño, means that nearly eight million people currently require food aid. That number could increase to 15 million in the months ahead. Pregnant women and children are especially vulnerable in a drought and more than 303,000 Ethiopian children are expected to need treatment for severe acute malnutrition this year.
The current situation in central and eastern Ethiopia is deteriorating. The drought limited access to water in some regions, forcing residents, especially women and children, to travel longer distances and spend more time waiting in lines to fetch water. As a result, some households have resorted to collect water from possibly contaminated sources, including rivers, ponds and springs. Others have suffered economically, having to buy water trucked in from other locations. With crops failing, families have resorted to drastic coping mechanisms such as skipping meals and selling off assets.
Although a well-coordinated response is already underway in Ethiopia, growing needs far exceed available resources. International Medical Corps has scaled up emergency response efforts in roughly half of the country’s 40 most affected woredas, or districts. Our support has included:
- Hygiene promotion;
- Training in severe acute malnutrition management, public health emergency management, admission/discharge criteria, reporting and recording;
- Distribution of Infant and Young Child Feeding information, education and communication materials;
- Providing workshops and sensitisation activities on integrated disease surveillance and response; procuring medications for nutrition treatment centres;
- Providing logistical support to transport therapeutic foods, medications and other essential items to health centres and health posts;
- Educating caretakers on health and nutrition practices;
- Establishing stabilisation centres in four hotspots priority woredas.
International Medical Corps has been working in Ethiopia for well over a decade, providing treatment for malnourished children and programs in water, sanitation and hygiene, food and livelihood security and comprehensive health care. Since 2011, we have established 83 outpatient programs and eight in-patient stabilisation centres to help treat children with severe acute malnutrition.
Refugee Response: In our refugee response programming, International Medical Corps provides camp-based protection and support for South Sudanese and Somali refugees in the Gambella and Somali regions who are subjected to gender-based violence, or who seek assistance with nutrition, sexual and reproductive health, mental health and psychosocial support (MHPSS) issues. These interventions benefit nearly 400,000 South Sudanese and Somali refugees.
In the western Gambella regional state, as of May 2017, more than 363,000 people persons fleeing the conflict in South Sudan have sought asylum with daily arrival of 350 people in 2017 (source: UNHCR). International Medical Corps is providing gender-based violence (GBV), mental health and sexual reproductive health services to 150,000 refugees living in three refugee camps. International Medical Corps also continues our work as the largest humanitarian partner in the Dolo refugee camps of the Somali regional state providing GBV, mental health, sanitation-hygiene and prevention of sexual exploitation/abuse services in three refugee camps with a total population of 130,000 refugees. More than 274,000 Somali refugees live in the camps of Dolo Ado, with an average daily arrival of 44 people. (source: UNHCR)
These efforts complement the ongoing emergency nutrition and health programs International Medical Corps is already running in these camps. Through mass awareness campaigns and home visits, International Medical Corps educates refugees on hand-washing, hygienic latrine usage, safe-water chains and solid waste disposal. Waste collection sacks are provided to families for deposit in waste collection bins throughout the camps, and donkey carts are then utilised to transport solid waste to safe landfills.
Livelihoods and Food Security: International Medical Corps administers a highly successful agricultural growth program Livestock Market Development —an initiative aimed at expanding livestock ownership for small land-holders while at the same time improving the quality and diversity of household diet and nutritional levels in poor rural areas. As with all International Medical Corps programs, it contains a large training component, including refresher trainings for health extension workers and their supervisors on maternal and child nutrition, strengthening care group volunteers’ awareness of the nutritional needs of pregnant and lactating mothers of children under two years old. Other areas of focus include training of beneficiaries on chicken production and management, conducting nutritional education and cooking lessons that focus on the livestock provided under the initiative.