from ADANE BIKILA in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
ADDIS ABABA, (CAJ News) – TRAGEDY is unfolding at the Ethiopia-South Sudan border where a fifth of refugee children are acutely malnourished.
The crisis is developing rapidly while global attention is on the conflict in Ethiopia’s northern Tigray region following an uprising late last year.
Numbers of South Sudanese refugees and asylum seekers driven into Ethiopia by conflict, food insecurity and flooding in South Sudan have doubled in recent weeks.
Action Against Hunger revealed it conducted a mass screening of about 1 800 refugee children younger than five years old in the Pagak Reception Centre last month.
The new data indicates that more than 20 percent of the children were acutely malnourished.
This includes 7 percent diagnosed with severe acute malnutrition, the deadliest form of hunger.
This prevalence is more than double what the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) considers a serious public health emergency.
“It is a dire situation,” said Abdulwasi Yusuf, Action Against Hunger’s field coordinator for Ethiopia’s Gambella region.
Pagak is located there.
Yusuf said food supplies were extremely limited, and many refugee mothers have resorted to foraging in nearby forests for wild leaves and nuts to eat and feed their children.
“With no place to shelter, many families are exposed to the blazing sun and other elements all day and night, without relief.”
According to Action Against Hunger, more than 70 percent of people in Pagak are women and children.
The area has substandard water and sanitation services, lacks a hospital, raising possibilities of outbreaks of cholera and COVID-19.
– CAJ News