WHO steps up health response to Somali refugees in Ethiopia

ADDIS ABABA, March 17 (Xinhua) -- The World Health Organization (WHO) has said it is scaling up health response to newly arriving Somali refugees in Ethiopia.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees has recently disclosed that some 100,000 Somalis have arrived in Ethiopia's Dollo zone in the Somali region, escaping clashes and insecurity in the city of Las Anod in the Sool region. Most of the newly arriving refugees are women, children -- many arriving unaccompanied -- and elderly, it noted.

The WHO in Ethiopia, in a statement issued late Thursday, said it is stepping up its health response to increase access to essential health services for refugees and the host population in the Dollo zone.

It said the Dollo zone, where the refugees are presently hosted, is currently affected by the worst drought in over 40 years in the greater Horn of Africa following five consecutive failed rainy seasons.

"The severe health impact of the drought has left thousands of households food insecure, an increase in children with acute malnutrition, high population movement and displacement of the pastoralists in search of water, and a heightened risk of disease outbreaks," the WHO said.

It warned that an ongoing measles outbreak in the Danond district of the Dollo zone further increases the risk of spreading to vulnerable populations, including refugees. Cholera outbreak has also been ongoing in the Liban zone, which hosts another group of Somali refugees, it said.

The WHO is co-chairing the health sector coordination platform in collaboration with the Somali Regional Health Bureau at the subnational and zonal levels, which facilitates health sector assessments, planning and response.

The WHO said it has delivered 12 interagency emergency health kits and severe acute malnutrition treatment kits to all the health facilities in the Dollo zone. It has also redeployed staff and has brought on board more technical experts in response to the health crisis in the region.

"We will continue to advocate for the deployment of more healthcare personnel and medical supplies to support the health facilities as they deal with multiple health emergencies," the statement quoted Nonhlanhla Dlamini, acting WHO representative to Ethiopia, as saying.

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