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  • Medical personnel of Doctors Without Borders at an Ebola security training session in Belgium.

    Medical personnel of Doctors Without Borders at an Ebola security training session in Belgium. | Photo: EFE

Published 18 April 2019

The agency has expressed concern for poor nutrition, inadequate living conditions and lack of access to safe drinking water that is experienced by tens of thousands of internally displaced people in southern Ethiopia.

The rapidly increasing number of thousands of displaced and malnourished people in the southern Gedeo region of Ethiopia has led the Medecins Sans Frontieres or Doctors Without Borders (MSF) humanitarian organization to launch an emergency response operation as well as call on other agencies in the region to increase support to meet the high demand for aid. 

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The agency has expressed concern for poor nutrition, inadequate living conditions and lack of access to safe drinking water that is experienced by tens of thousands of internally displaced people in southern Ethiopia. 

Among those experiencing severe acute and global acute malnutrition are children, who are experiencing rates much higher than the emergency threshold, according to screenings, by the MSF, of children under the age of five. Pregnant women are also experiencing malnourishment at alarming rates.

MSF field coordinator Markus Boening addressed the "immediate need to scale up the response for the treatment of malnourished children, as the few facilities in the area were completely overwhelmed and could not offer the specialized care needed for children with complications." The MSF official also pointed out the need to address "gaps in the community outreach component of the current response" which will lead to many children arriving too late to respond to treatment.

The MSF is teaming up with the Regional Health Bureau to focus on nutrition as a priority of public health. Together, they have provided treatment to over 200 children, under the age of five, who are experiencing severe acute malnutrition, in just two weeks. 

Further collaboration between the two agencies will include upgrading water and sanitation conditions at displacement camps, which are currently "overcrowded and in extremely poor conditions," Boening said. The unsanitary conditions increase the risk of outbreaks, epidemics, and several health issues. Currently, several thousands of people at the camps have been reported to have severe diarrhea due to the poor water conditions.

MSF wrapped up another operation in Gedeo only three months ago, focusing on displacement as a result of ethnic violence, specifically between ethnic Gedeos and neighboring Gujis. While the ethnic groups have coexisted in the past, the surge in Gedeo population, competition over land resources, and incendiary local politics have resulted in mass violence between the groups. Ethiopian authorities reported that almost one million people had been displaced in the peak of the crisis in July of last year.

In December, the displacement crisis appeared to be taking a turn with people returning to their homes, and vacating hotels and camps. In just a short amount of time, the threat of violence has caused many people to return to the places of refuge in Gedeo. 

MSF's head of mission in Ethiopia, Mohamed Morchid, urged for a "mobilizing efforts - at the local, regional and federal level - [need] to scale up the delivery of aid to ensure that people's pressing needs for healthcare, shelter, water and sanitation and food are covered."


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