UN World Food Programme

WFP Provides Lifeline to Somali Refugees in Southern Ethiopia

Muslimo and her child at a WFP food distribution at a refugee camp near Dolo Ado in southern Ethiopia where WFP distributes a complete food basket to drought victims. Copyright: WFP/Natasha Scripture

To escape the famine in southern Somalia, Muslimo, 15, carried her baby across the desert, walking for days without food and water to arrive exhausted at the Kobe refugee camp in Ethiopia. To help them rebuild their strength, WFP is providing refugees like Muslimo with a complete food basket in addition to specialised nutrition products tailored to the needs of small children.

DOLO ADO – “I’ve been so hungry. I’m so happy to have this food,” said Muslimo, 15, as she lifted her tired-looking toddler, one-year-old Hussein, into her rail-thin arms.

Muslimo has been living at Kobe refugee camp - about 40 kilometres from the border with Somalia - for more than a week. She’s among over 25,000 refugees at the camp who are receiving a complete WFP food basket including wheat flour, pulses, high-energy biscuits, salt, vegetable oil and sugar.

“If I did not have this food, I don’t know what I would do,” said Muslimo. In addition to food, UN agencies and NGOs are also providing shelter, medical attention and access to basic services like latrines and clean water.

Relief amid hardship

Although the stream of refugees crossing into Dolo Ado has slowed significantly in recent days, there are still up to 200 people arriving every day at the pre-registration and transit centres run by the Ethiopian government’s Administration for Refugee and Returnee Affairs (ARRA) and UNHCR.

Malnutrition rates are worringly high among new arrivals. Some 50 per cent of children under five arrive at Dolo Ado suffering from acute malnutrition. To provide immediate relief, high-energy biscuits are given out at the welcome centre before new arrivals are even registered.

Once they’re done, they are each given a bracelet entitling them to the camp’s services and served a hot meal. Refugees are again provided high-energy biscuits while they wait in line to receive their rations.

Long road ahead

WFP is planning to feed more than 11. 5 million people affected by drought across the Horn of Africa. That includes 3.7 million people in Somalia, 3.5 million people in Ethiopia and 2.7 million people in Kenya, in addition to 226,000 refugees in Ethiopia and 496,000 refugees in Kenya.

As the number of hungry people in need of assistance rises, so to are cases of contagious diseases like measles. 

This growing concern will only worsen the conditions of an already extremely vulnerable refugee population. Measles vaccinations are currently taking place at all the camps in order to prevent increased mortality rates.