Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) is witnessing alarming indications of a deadly and escalating nutrition crisis in Ethiopia’s Afar region, requiring an urgent scale up of the humanitarian response. In Afar, in the country’s northeast, hundreds of thousands of people have fled from recent conflict only to find themselves grappling alongside host communities with drought, hunger and a staggering lack of access to healthcare and clean water.
“What scares us most at this point is that we are only beginning to see the very tip of the iceberg, and already it is overwhelming,” said Raphael Veicht, MSF Emergency Coordinator in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. “In Dupti Hospital, which is the only functional referral hospital in all of Afar region, we are seeing children arrive after incredibly long and difficult journeys.”
“Far too many of them are dying within 48 hours because they are too sick and too malnourished to have a fighting chance at survival,” said Veicht.
Since April, we have been increasing our support to Dupti hospital, which serves a population of more than 1.1 million people, including hundreds of thousands of displaced people. This year, the number of severely malnourished children admitted to the facility has already exceeded the previous year’s baseline by a factor of three to four. Patient mortality rates are staggeringly high, exceeding 20 per cent in some weeks. Thirty-five children have died in the last eight weeks alone, and more than two-thirds of those patients died within 48 hours of admission.