By Shu’aibu Adamu
ADDIS ABABA – The international medical humanitarian organisation, Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), said on Thursday that tens of thousands of refugees who fled violence and deprivation in South Sudan to Ethiopia’s Gambella region needed urgent assistance.
The organisation said in a statement that the refugees were being threatened by lack of water, food, and poor sanitation as their number increases.
MSF said that the refugee population could swell to 140,000 people from the estimated 80,000 that had earlier arrived in the Gambella Camp after they escaped violence, persecution and food shortages in Jonglei, Upper Nile, and Unity States in South Sudan.
It said levels of humanitarian assistance in the camps are already far from covering the needs with more than 1,000 new refugees arriving in Ethiopia camp daily.
Children are among those under higher risk of contracting diseases including measles.
Already, there are reports of increase in the number of those suffering from respiratory infections, diarrhoea and malaria, linked to the difficult conditions while escaping from South Sudan, at the transit sites as well in the camps.
The statement quoted Antoine Foucher, MSF’s head of mission in Ethiopia, as saying: “We estimate that the mortality rate in children under five remains above emergency levels in Letchuor camp, due largely to high rates of malnutrition and measles.
“While the provision of assistance has improved, it is hardly keeping up with the continued influx of refugees, as the current response is running behind the needs and it is critical to boost the response to improve health conditions ahead of the rainy season.’’
MSF, in conjunction with the Ethiopian Administration for Refugees and Returnees Affairs (ARRA), is providing medical assistance to the vulnerable refugees, most of who had walked for three weeks to reach Ethiopia.
The two organisations had set up mobile clinics at the border in Tiergol and Pagak, outpatient services and a 65-bed in-patient facility in Letchuor, a camp with 40,000 people, and a 75-bed in-patient facility in Itang, close to Kule camp.
MSF teams have so far conducted 8,633 medical consultations, admitted 160 patients and provided intensive nutrition care to 130 children, who are suffering from measles, despite the administration of vaccinations at the border.
MSF teams have treated more than 500 children with measles, including 47 who required intensive care and hospitalisation, and is also providing latrines in the Pagak and Kule camps.
The agency called for more aid before the onset of the rainy season, which will only worsen the already dire living conditions. (NAN)