Ethiopia: the food crisis is not finished in Ogaden

Press release: Brussels/Denan, September 21, 2000 - With the upcoming visit to Ethiopia by Mrs Catherine Bertini, special envoy for the UN regarding the drought affecting the Horn of Africa, Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) reiterates that the food crisis is not finished in Ogaden, and in particular in the village of Denan where the MSF nutritional centres are located. MSF nutritional reports indicate that certain categories of population in Denan remain extremely vulnerable, in particular the displaced people (IDPs) where the general rate of malnutrition is 40%. This situation must continue to be closely monitored. In April 2000, MSF opened its first nutritional centres in Denan, which is near the town of Gode. Denan is a village which does not have any natural water sources and where, after four years without rain, the drought made its effects particularly felt. In addition to the usual population estimated at 9,000 people, more than 7,000 IDPs have found some form of refuge in the surrounding areas. At one time during the crisis, almost 600 children were being cared for at an MSF Therapeutic Feeding Centre in Denan and more than 3,600 children were being given weekly nutritional assistance. MSF also responded to occurrences of measles and bloody diarrhoea. About 30 MSF expat staff have worked in Denan since the centres have been in operation. Today, Denan has changed a great deal. The village population has climbed to more than 12,000 people. The displaced population has risen to 15,500. The presence of malnutrition in the total population remains very high in Denan, even if the various nutritional surveys carried out by MSF indicate an improvement. In fact, in May for the entire population of children aged under five, the total malnutrition level was calculated at 40%. In August, this percentage had fallen to 33,8%. However children under five who are IDPs have a higher total malnutrition rate (39,6%) than children from the village (21,6%). As for severe malnutrition for the entire of the population of children under five years of age, it fell from 6% in May to 2,6% in August. MSF believes that general food distribution programs remain necessary for the entire population. MSF nutritional programs remain beneficial to both the village population and the IDPs.
Other MSF activities in Ethiopia include: a tuberculosis program, AIDS/HIV and the care and prevention of sexually transmitted diseases, primary care, access to drinking water, the promotion of hygiene, nutritional intervention and the training of doctors and nurses on surgical techniques.