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Worries over measles outbreak among refugees in Dollo Ado

Last update - Monday, August 15, 2011, 19:40 By Metro Éireann

The UN’s refugee agency has expressed growing alarm over the plight of refugees in the Dollo Ado camps in south-eastern Ethiopia following an outbreak of suspected measles. The UNHCR fears the outbreak could lead to high mortality and serious illness in an already vulnerable refugee population whose overall health was already fragile.

An outbreak could also reverse the progress which had been made over the last several weeks to stabilise Somali refugees, many of whom arrived in Ethiopia in extremely poor health.
On 4 August alone, community health workers reported 25 deaths in the camp, half of which were suspected to be from measles. Refugee children are the most affected.
Moses Okello, the UNHCR representative in Ethiopia who recently returned from Dollo Ado, said the current situation is alarming. He added that the international community cannot afford to wait.
“We must act now, urgently and decisively, to arrest and turn around this situation,” he said, calling on all UNHCR health partners to scale up their capacity.
Unicef and the WHO, through Ethiopia’s Ministry of Health, are providing the necessary vaccines for all children between the ages of six months and 15 years. Vaccinations began last week for all refugee children being transferred from the transit centre to the newly opened Hilaweyn camps.
Health experts said high rates of acute malnutrition, low vaccination coverage in Somalia and overcrowding in the camps are some of the aggravating factors associated with this outbreak. They also cited poor hygiene habits and poor health-seeking behaviour as challenges.
Round-the-clock health services are being provided and access to the facilities improved through ambulance services. These have been complemented by public health campaigns and door-to-door identification of the sick and malnourished.
As of 5 August, the number of Somali refugees in the Dollo Ado camps had reached 118,400. Nearly 78,000 of them arrived this year. This is in addition to more than 41,600 Somali refugees in the Jijiga area of the Somali region.
Ethiopia hosts a total of 237,500 refugees, mainly from Somalia, Eritrea and Sudan.

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