Africa

Somalis seek refuge from drought in Ethiopia

  • 7 July 2011
  • From the section Africa

The UN World Food Programme (WFP) says more than 110,000 Somalis have arrived at the remote camps at Dolo Ado in south-eastern Ethiopia.

The camps are already severely overcrowded, but another 1,600 people are arriving every day.

They are weak with hunger, having walked for days with malnourished children to cross from Somalia.

But the WFP's Judith Schuler says many are too weak or too poor to make the journey.

Some 12 million people need food aid after rains failed for the second year running across the Horn of Africa.

Getting food to the camps around the Dolo Ado in the remote south-eastern region of Ethiopia involves a long and dangerous journey.

Some 50 trucks a month make the trip, which requires bringing food from Djibouti to the Ethiopian town of Nazareth, and then down to the camps, close to the Kenyan border.

Making the 10-day journey is not without danger.

In May, vehicles were attacked by rebels of the Ogaden National Liberation Front, a rebel group fighting for greater rights for the ethnic Somali region of eastern Ethiopia.

One person was killed, another injured and two taken captive. They have only just been released.

But says the WFP, the drivers are determined to continue making the hazardous journey.

Left to die

Many Somalis have walked for days to get to the camps.

"One other woman told me, and that's what really marked me, is 'look we have arrived here and we are the lucky ones because there are many that couldn't afford the trip and basically had to stay behind'," Ms Schuler told the BBC.

So what fate faces those Somalis who are unable to make the journey?

"I think many of them will probably fight for their survival with the last means they have," Ms Schuler said.

Are many of those left behind likely to die?

"Yes, that's what the people who are arriving told me," Ms Schuler replied.

Map of drought in the Horn of Africa

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