Somali refugee death rates falling in Ethiopia camps: UNHCR

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The UN said Friday efforts to reduce mortality rates among Somali refugees arriving at camps in Ethiopia were bearing fruit, with care given to the malnourished cutting death rates by about a third.

"Between June 24 and July 9, the crude mortality rate we had was extremely high, at 7.5 per 10,000 people per day," UNHCR spokeswoman Fatoumata Lejeune-Kaba said, referring to data from the Kobe camp in Dollo Ado.

"Between July 10 and 21, it was reduced, but still extremely high at 5.5 deaths per 10,000 per day.

"This is against the baseline for sub-Saharan Africa of 0.5, and an emergency is declared when it is 1 per 10,000 per day," Lejeune-Kabab said.

The spokeswoman for the office of the High Commissioner for Refugees said all new arrivals were screened to detect signs of malnutrition, and provided with the necessary food to counter the condition.

Some 75,000 Somalis have arrived in the Dollo Ado camps since the beginning of the year, UNHCR figures show, and continue to arrive at a rate of 240 per day.

Around 30 percent of new arrivals have severe acute malnutrition, the UNHCR said.

Similar studies on mortality rates were being conducted in other camps, the agency added.

Nearly half of Somalia's estimated 10 million people are in need of relief assistance, owing to the effects of the relentless violence and the drought that prompted the UN to declare famine for the first time this century.

The UN raised its Horn of Africa humanitarian appeal Friday to $2.48 billion for 12.4 million drought-hit people, warning that famine could spread across the region if donors fail to come to their aid.

© 2011 AFP

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