International medical charity appeals for urgent response to avert malnutrition crisis in NE Ethiopia

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Urgent response is needed to avert an “overwhelming malnutrition crisis” in Ethiopia’s northeastern Afar regional state, Doctors Without Borders (Medecins Sans Frontieres/MSF), an international medical charity has warned.

“MSF is witnessing alarming indications of a deadly and escalating nutrition crisis in Ethiopia’s Afar region, requiring an urgent scale up of the humanitarian response,” MSF said in a statement issued late Thursday.

The medical charity said its teams are witnessing “shockingly high levels” of mortality among malnourished children admitted to Dupti Hospital in the Afar region, with many children dying within 48 hours of arrival.

“We call for an urgent escalation of humanitarian response to the crisis in Afar region, and elsewhere in Ethiopia, with increased access to food, clean water and medical care for people,” MSF said.

It said in the Afar region, hundreds of thousands of people have fled from recent conflict only to find themselves grappling alongside host communities with drought, hunger and a staggering lack of access to healthcare and clean water.

“What scares us most at this point is that we are only beginning to see the very tip of the iceberg, and already it is overwhelming,” the statement quoted Raphael Veicht, MSF Emergency Coordinator in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia’s capital, as saying.

“In Dupti hospital, which is the only functional referral hospital in all of Afar region, we are seeing children arrive after incredibly long and difficult journeys. Far too many of them are dying within 48 hours because they are too sick and too malnourished to have a fighting chance at survival,” Veicht added.

The MSF said reports indicate that only 20 percent of health structures in Afar region are functional as the healthcare facilities were damaged, destroyed, abandoned or under-resourced.

Without an urgent upscale of the humanitarian response in Afar, many people already living through the horrors of conflict, displacement and drought will be further pushed towards the brink of survival, it said.

“In order to avoid further excess illness and deaths as a consequence of the ongoing nutritional crisis in Afar and other parts of Ethiopia, the humanitarian community must act with urgency,” it said.

Ethiopia’s northern Afar and Amhara regions were affected after the fighting that started in the country’s northernmost Tigray region expanded to neighboring regions during the second half of 2021, eventually pushing millions into urgent humanitarian need and misery.

The conflict flared up in early November 2020 between the Ethiopian National Defense Forces (ENDF) and the rebel Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), after the TPLF’s attack on the Northern military command of the ENDF.

Humanitarian aid is recently heading to Tigray and other areas after the Ethiopian government and the rebel Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) agreed to a conditional cessation of hostilities and unhindered delivery of humanitarian aid into the region. Enditem

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