Severe malnutrition rates increase by 172% as food rations decrease in Kenya refugee camps

MSF warns that malnutrition will continue to rise unless donors strengthen food pipeline.
Press release: Nairobi, 26 June 2001 - In a statement issued today out of Nairobi, the international medical relief organisation Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) warned that malnutrition rates among refugees in Dadaab, North East Kenya will continue to rise unless donors strengthen the food pipeline. MSF nutritional data showed that over the past six months, general food distribution to the camp population has diminished by 35%, resulting in a 172% increase in severe malnutrition rates among children under five*. The MSF warning about rising malnutrition levels comes less than one week after a donor meeting failed to come up with the necessary pledges for food in the camps. "There is war in Somalia, there are no plans to repatriate these refugees, and there are just as many people who are completely dependent on aid as there were last year, so the international community and WFP cannot just cut food rations or ignore the problem", said Manu Moncada, MSF Head of Mission in Kenya. "Just because they are an old case-load of refugees, does not mean that it is acceptable for food rations to go down, and for the number of severely malnourished children to go up. The food pipeline must be strengthened." He concluded. The majority of the 127,000 refugees living in the three camps of Dadaab, are refugees from Southern Somalia. Most have been living in the refugee camps of North East Kenya for ten years, since the fall of dictator Siaid Barre and the outbreak of war. Although some refugees have chosen to go home, there are still new refugees arriving, fleeing the fighting and unstable situation, particularly in Southern Somalia. The refugees totally depend on humanitarian assistance, and do not have other coping mechanisms, as the desert like environment does not allow farming activities, and as the Kenyan government forbids any movement out of the camps. There are no official plans to shut down the refugee camps, nor to repatriate the refugees, so under international law, the protection and care of these refugees, remains the responsibility of the international community. Since mid April, WFP rations distributed only reached 1,399** Kcal per refugee per day, instead of the normal recommended daily ration of 2,100 Kcal (Decrease of 35% or around 700 Kcal between January and June 2001). As a direct consequence of the food rations drop, the number of children enrolled in MSF nutritional programs has shown an alarming increase over the past few weeks. In January 2001, 72 children <5 were registered in MSF's Therapeutic Feeding Centres (TFCs), but this increased by 172% in under six months, to 196 children <5 years old by mid-June***. Despite various appeals, WFP is facing serious shortages in their food pipeline. Present stocks of wheat flour are reportedly empty since May, while a shortfall in maize is expected for mid-July, and for vegetable oil in mid-June. Stocks of maize, lentils and oil are expected to run out completely by August 2001****. Donor support for food is generally a mixture of actual food and cash. The US government has provided around three quarters of the food needed, but there are no pledges so far from traditional donors such as the EU, Japan, and the UK. MSF has been working in the Somali refugee camps of Dadaab since 1992 and is in charge of all health care for refugees in the three camps. MSF is currently providing therapeutic care and high energy food rations for 196 severely malnourished children out of the three camp hospitals, and supplementary feeding for 1,850 moderately malnourished children out of nine health posts (three per camp). There are four international and 30 national MSF staff working in the Dadaab camps. MSF also provides 'incentives' to 508 refugee volunteers and 30 MOH staff for the health programs. * See attached graphs ** WFP Date *** MSF Data **** Normal rations include wheat flour, maize, lentils, sugar, salt and oil.