July 19 2011

Aid Appeal for East Africa

14/07/2011 - Millions of people living in the Horn of Africa countries are threatened by famine, with hundreds of thousands of children in real danger. SOS Children's Villages is preparing for relief efforts in Somalia, Ethiopia and Kenya.

Photo: SOS Archives
Refugee children in Darkenley camp near Mogadishu, Somalia - Photo: SOS Archives

Surveys are currently underway to determine the areas where SOS Children's Villages has the logistical capacity to provide emergency aid. In Somalia SOS teams in the catchment area of Mogadishu and the refugee camps around the capital have raised the position of children in particular.

Coordination talks are underway with other major aid organisations such as UNICEF, the WHO and Somalia's National Drought Committee. What is certain is that the main SOS Hospital in Somalia's capital Mogadishu and an SOS Field Clinic in Baidoa will be providing medical assistance and a food programme. Similar emergency measures are also being put in place in Marsabit in northern Kenya and in Gode in southern Ethiopia.

Photo: SOS Archives
Thousands of people in Somalia are internally displaced, as is this woman with her baby  - Photo: SOS Archives
The situation in Somalia is catastrophic

The situation in large parts of Somalia is worst of all. There the people are in danger not only from hunger and drought, but also from the endless war conditions. Each day thousands flee from the disastrous conditions in their country over the border to Kenya and Ethiopia. Children already weakened often do not survive the journey across the desert. Many desperate people are also arriving in the devastated capital, Mogadishu, in the hope of finding a minimum provision of water food, and medicine there.

For many years SOS Children's Villages has been one of the very few NGOs to run a comprehensive social programme in Mogadishu, including a major clinic for women and children that has been essential to medical care in the capital for over 20 years. According to figures from the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) and Somalia's Ministry of Health, over 9,000 families have arrived in Mogadishu in recent weeks from the drought areas, an estimated 270 families per day. Either they are given shelter in camps on the city's outskirts, or they occupy ruined houses in the city centre and wander the streets begging.

Photo: SOS Archives
The hygienic conditions in Darkenley are precarious, medical care is absolutey insufficient - Photo: SOS Archives
Children in camps nearly all malnourished

An SOS team led by Ahmed Ibrahim, the director of SOS Children's Villages Somalia, visited the Darkenley camp near Mogadishu. "Most of the children and older people are malnourished," said Ahmed Ibrahim. There is only one small medical station with few medical supplies, so it is forced to turn away sick children. There is only one single food distribution point where there is something on offer other than dried food. Ahmed describes the desperate conditions in the camp: "Men, women and children all stand in line together and receive the same: rice". Many of the families come from regions that have been inaccessible for the past two years because of the war, with the result that many children have not been immunised. There is the threat of a measles epidemic, as well as diarrhoea, respiratory infections, malaria and skin disorders. Some of the shelter is no more than just plastic sheeting, and some families do not even have this.

Relief efforts in Mogadishu

SOS Children's Villages is planning to set up a therapy and food centre for undernourished children in the SOS Clinic, as well as a mobile clinic and immunisation point in Darkenley camp. Medical emergencies can be treated in the SOS Clinic. Families are given food support; however this is not through direct distribution of dry rations, but by giving food vouchers for hot meals. Play materials are also given out to children in the camps.

Photo: SOS Archives
SOS Children's Villages Ethiopia has already carried out a number of emergency aid programmes in the past, as e.g. in Gode in 2000 and 2008 - Photo: SOS Archives
Emergency aid in Ethiopia

SOS Children's Villages will also be setting up an emergency relief programme in Southern Ethiopia. In the past decades SOS Children's Villages has repeatedly provided disaster relief in Gode and other regions of Ethiopia because of recurrent droughts. Gode lies in one of the driest areas of Ethiopia. Thanks to the existing infrastructure and expertise of SOS Children's Villages co-workers, we are able to provide relief aid in this location for mothers and their children. The plan is to distribute food and put sustainable development measures in place to secure families' survival in the long term. SOS Children's Villages Ethiopia currently supports 59,000 people; in Gode the figure is over 16,000.

Photo: Katja Snozzi
East Africa is facing the world's most severe humanitarian crisis - Photo: Katja Snozzi
Millions threatened by drought

An estimated 4.5 million people in Ethiopia depend on humanitarian aid, including 700,000 children under the age of five. According to a UN OCHA report, the food situation in Ethiopia's lowlands and rural areas will deteriorate even more alarmingly in the coming months. The position of the rural population in the Somali, Oromia and South Omo regions is already drastic. On the other hand there are fears of flooding for the rainy season from October to December.

Aid in Northern Kenya

SOS Children's Villages does operate at five locations in Kenya, currently reaching over 14,000 people with its programmes, but all of these sites are far from the area in the north that is struggling with drought and a constant stream of refugees from Somalia. SOS Children's Villages has plans to start a family strengthening programme in Marsabit in Northern Kenya at the end of the year. In view of the acute emergency situation SOS Children's Villages is now assessing whether a food distribution programme can be introduced in Marsabit.

Photo: Hilary Atkins
The life of hundreds of thousands of children is at risk - Photo: Hilary Atkins
SOS Children's Villages struggling with growing need for aid and rising prices

The escalating cost of food and the consequent worsening living conditions for families is also causing medium to long term problems for funding SOS Children's Villages projects in East Africa. Already the national SOS Children's Villages offices in Somalia, Kenya and Ethiopia have notified the need for 20% additional financing for the SOS families budgets alone. There is no end in sight to the upward spiral of prices. A fatal dynamic is at work: families' need for aid is increasing in parallel with the price of basic foodstuffs. As yet SOS Children's Villages cannot foresee how it can keep up with this development in the medium to long term. SOS Children's Villages supports around 226,000 people in Somalia, Kenya and Ethiopia. At present 1,465 children are growing up in a total of eleven SOS Children's Villages, and thousands of families are supported in social programmes - and more and more are having to depend on outside help because of recent developments.