MSF alarmed at dramatic situation at Ethiopia resettlement site

Inadequate planning of resettlement leads to unnecessary suffering.
"The settlers in Biddre are in the mud, sleeping under a piece of plastic in the rain", said Austen Davis, General Director for MSF. "The muddy roads, broken bridges and the flooding of the rivers have left them cut off from much needed aid supplies. Our medical teams struggles hard to get access to the settlers. Knowing the need for humanitarian aid, it is hard to understand why they were moved to Bidrre just before the rains started."
Addis Abeba - The international humanitarian medical organisation Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) is alarmed at the humanitarian situation in Bidrre, where the Ethiopian authorities have assisted in settling thousands of people. Since January 2003, MSF has been involved in an emergency health intervention in Shawe, Bale (Oromya region) and continued in April in Bidrre (Bale) on behalf of approximately 15,000 settlers. MSF has improved the water supply and disbursement and is involved in primary health care services through mobile clinics. MSF also runs a Therapeutic Feeding Centre, currently with 90 severely malnourished children. The settlers were recently moved from Shawe camp to Bidrre. The population started arriving in Shawe camp 10 months ago, as a result of migration from Hararge due to land pressure. Over these months their health status already deteriorated. The recent resettlement to Bidrre took place in a rushed attempt because of the anticipated rains. The resettlement of this vulnerable group to Bidrre is characterised by inadequate planning and implementation. Preparations in the area of resettlement were substantially inadequate. People, including many women and children under 5 years of age, were left in Bidrre with insufficient shelter material, limited water facilities - no surface water - and no appropriate health care system in place to address the basic needs of a very fragile population. With the onset of the rains, access to the site has become virtually impossible. MSF is alarmed by the impact of the poor living conditions on the health status of the settlers. The cold and wet weather has contributed to an increase in low respiratory tract infections and fever cases. High rates of watery and bloody diarrhoea have been reported. Water trucks, needed to transport drinking water to the Biddre site, have become stuck in the mud. "The settlers in Biddre are in the mud, sleeping under a piece of plastic in the rain", said Austen Davis, General Director for MSF. "The muddy roads, broken bridges and the flooding of the rivers have left them cut off from much needed aid supplies. Our medical teams struggles hard to get access to the settlers. Knowing the need for humanitarian aid, it is hard to understand why they were moved to Bidrre just before the rains started." Some weeks ago the regional authorities gave a commitment to adequately address the alarming humanitarian situation, but the rains have postponed their efforts as well. Road construction activities and the start of second drilling rig are delayed because of the rains. Various Ethiopian regional authorities have announced plans for the relocation of several hundred thousand people. MSF has serious concerns about the impact of inadequately planned resettlement on the health status of settlers. Respect for the settlers requires proper planning and preparation before the resettlement takes place. The situation in Bidrre provides a dramatic example of how things can go wrong. In order to avoid high mortality and morbidity amongst resettled populations, MSF urges the federal and regional authorities to take care of the task of planning and implementation of resettlement in an adequate manner to prevent unnecessary suffering of the relocated populations.