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Ethiopia: Somali refugee project handed over
Press release
Tuesday, May 29, 2012
Medecins Sans Frontieres/Doctors Without Borders (MSF) has handed over one of its largest projects for Somali refugees in Ethiopia to ARRA, an Ethiopian refugee agency.

The number of refugees crossing the border has significantly decreased since August 2011 –the height of the humanitarian crisis – when MSF opened the project.

In May 2011, an average of 300 refugees were crossing the border every day, with daily influxes of up to 1,500.

Somali civil war 

Years of civil war in Somalia, compounded by a drought that hit the Horn of Africa early last year, caused widespread malnutrition while aid agencies could extend little assistance inside Somalia itself.

The refugees that were crossing the border to Ethiopia had sometimes walked for weeks in search of safety and assistance.

“I am a farmer in Somalia, and had to flee because of drought and hunger. Our cattle died, and there was no rain,” says one refugee who fled Somalia in June last year.

“Sometimes my children were without food for many days, they were so hungry and suffered a lot. There was also a lot of violence in our town. We left everything we had.

"The journey took 21 days and we had only little food and water; I saw people die along the way. One of my children almost passed away during the journey. She was very malnourished.” 

Medical screenings

At the onset of the crisis, MSF quickly set up a medical screening at the border, as well as an outpatient health post and therapeutic feeding centre in the transit camp that housed the newcomers.

“At the height of the crisis, we were doing around 130 new admissions in the therapeutic feeding clinic per day,” recallas Karline Kleijer, who managed MSF programmes in Liben at the time.

“I think we can be proud of what we achieved; it wasn’t easy. There was a big emergency in an area with a very sensitive security situation.

There were big teams in Liben working and living close together and under a lot of pressure. Taking all that into account it is amazing what has been achieved.”


The majority of the incoming refugee population in July and August 2011 suffered from malnutrition and opportunistic infections.

In the Hiloweyn camp alone, MSF treated over 50,000 outpatients, nearly 10,000 children and young adults for malnutrition and 10,000 in-patient admissions between August 2011 and May this year.

MSF constructed emergency medical facilities in the newly opened Hiloweyn and Bur Amino refugee camps to provide the infrastructure for medical activities in an unforgiving environment.

MSF also expanded the infrastructure of the Dolo Ado Health Centre with new surgical, post-operation and maternity wards, including a new laboratory to serve the local host population and act as a referral centre for refugees.

Hiloweyn refugee camp

MSF handed over the infrastructure and most of its programmes in Hiloweyn refugee camp to the Ethiopian refugee agency ARRA in May 2012.

MSF continues to work in all five camps in Liben with stabilisation centres for severely malnourished children with medical complications.

In addition, MSF provides primary and secondary health care in the newest camp, Bur Amino, where an average of 2,000 new refugees are settled per month.

MSF also works in partnership with the Ethiopian Ministry of Health to provide emergency surgical care and stabilisation in the Dolo Ado health centre. 


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