Ethiopia: setting up camp on hard soil

Monday, August 15, 2011

  • Transit-09.jpgLining up for water. ACT has set up a distribution point for water sourced from a shallow well by the river bank, about half a kilometre from the Dollo Odo reception centre. It is pumped using solar power into a 10,000 litre tank and piped to water points ACT/FCA/Bjarte Birkeland
  • Transit-020.jpgLiving in a refugee camp means a great deal of waiting. People lining up for food at the ACT-supported Dollo Odo camp are being checked they have the right papers ACT/FCA/Bjarte Birkeland
  • Transit-025.jpgA new day dawns for residents of ACT-supported Hilowen camp. Hilowen is the first step of the long journey to a hopeful future ACT/FCA/Bjarte Birkeland
  • Transit-041.jpgLfe in the Dollo Odo camp sometimes means having to take care of business anywhere. Rubbish and excrement fill this hollow in the ground ACT/FCA/Bjarte Birkeland
  • Transit-042.jpgWashing clothes at the ACT-supported Dollo Odo camp is a first step toward normal life in an abnormal situation ACT/FCA/Bjarte Birkeland
  • Transit-047.jpgThe Dollo Odo transit centre is first stop for new arrivals ACT/FCA/Bjarte Birkeland

Somalis fleeing the worst drought in 60 years are filling up refugee camps in Ethiopia, driving up demand for another extension to the refugee camp in Dollo Ado, southern Ethiopia.

A fourth camp, Hilowen, has been opened in Dollo Ado to house 40,000 refugees. In two weeks, a decision will be made whether another camp will also be needed, Bjarte Birkeland, Ethiopia country coordinator for ACT member Finn Church Aid, says.

Birkeland says the sight of the camps is overwhelming.

"People are living in tents huddled next to one another. Not everyone even has a tent. Some have built their own shelters using branches and bits of cloth. Malnourished children lie inside the tents.

"The ground where the new Hilowen camp is located is very hard with stones and rocks and thus difficult to dig latrines. Now we are waiting for excavators from Addis Ababa."

In the transit centre, a measles outbreak resulted in all arrivals being vaccinated before leaving the transit centre for Hilowen.

Fewer refugees are coming as a few weeks back. Around 200-300 new arrivals come each week. "But this number may change. Most urgent needs at the transit centre are additional water points and a spaces where people can wash their clothes," Birkeland says.

Although clear signs exist that international organisations have started to respond the need for more assistance remains strong.

FCA is funding work in Dollo Ado. Another ACT member, The Lutheran World Federation, is working on water and sanitation, which includes trucking 80,000 litres of water to the camp's transit centre each day and upgrading and repairing water pumps.