Two Somali boys in front of their tent at Helawen camp, Ethiopia. The camp was opened on August 4 and an estimated 12,000 refugees are living there now. (Angelika Mendes/JRS)
Nairobi, 23 August 2011 – The Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) has confirmed its plans to establish new projects in Dollo Ado camps in Ethiopia. JRS will send a team to work in the area in the coming weeks and start as soon as possible to provide educational and psychosocial support to the refugee population.

Since the beginning of the drought some nine weeks ago and the ongoing violence in Somalia, the Horn of Africa has been facing an unprecedented humanitarian crisis. The latest refugee camp, opened on 4 August, is already home to an estimated 12,000 Somalis fleeing the famine at home.

JRS Eastern Africa Director, Frido Pflueger SJ, has just returned from Ethiopia, where he visited three refugee camps in Dollo Ado (Bokolmayo, Melkadida and Helawen) hosting more than 100,000 Somali refugees.

"What impressed me most was the large number of children in each camp. More than 80 percent of the population is under 18 years, and have nothing to do. The best way to help is to build schools. When they are in school, they have something meaningful to do and are secure. It also gives them a perspective for their future", Fr Pflueger, explained.

According to Fr Pflueger SJ, once again, education becomes a key intervention in emergency situations, not only saving lives but also ensuring the physical, psychological and cognitive needs of children and adolescents are met. Education is a fundamental right in all situations.

As the Ethiopian state agency, the Administration of Refugee and Returnee Affairs, is taking responsibility for primary education, JRS plans to focus on providing post-primary education in one of the older camps, Melkadia, in which the number of children is very high.

"We will also begin psychosocial support through activities, such as sports and theatre, so they can do something during the day," said Fr Pflueger.

Humanitarian situation

To get to the camps, many have had to walk between 18 and 19 days under the sun, trying to escape the famine caused by the worst drought in recent years and conflict-created instability.

Although the number of refugees arriving in Dollo Ado camps has dropped from 1,700 to 100-140 a day, every camp except the Hellawen, which opened on 4 August, is completely full.

Seventy percent of the population is suffering from malnutrition and mortality rates are alarming. In addition, it is believed many families do not report the death of their members in order to maintain food stamps.

Not only malnutrition is the cause of such deaths. Also concerning organisations is the recent outbreak of measles. Moreover, the lack of infrastructure and the climate makes life very difficult.

"They are in a rocky area, making it difficult to build tents and latrines. The area is hot, dry and dusty. We cannot ignore this situation, it is our moral obligation to act", added Fr Pflueger.

For further information on the JRS appeal for Somalis see http://www.jrs.net/campaigns_focus?TN=PROMO-20110725042251
Countries Related to this Region
Ethiopia