Northeast Ethiopia’s malnutrition pandemic is being exacerbated by recent violence, displacement, and a lack of healthcare, food, and water.

In the first 48 hours after being admitted to the hospital, two-thirds of severely malnourished toddlers die. An immediate increase in humanitarian relief, including more food, clean water, and medical treatment, in Afar and throughout Ethiopia is needed.

MSF is concerned about a growing and worsening food crisis in Ethiopia’s Afar region, which requires an immediate humanitarian response. Hundreds of thousands of Ethiopians have fled conflict in the northeastern region of Afar, only to be met with famine, hunger, and a lack of access to medical treatment and clean water.

To paraphrase Raphael Veicht in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia: “We’re only looking at the tip of the iceberg, and it’s staggering.” Only children who have endured the most arduous of journeys can be treated at Dupti Hospital, the sole referral facility in Afar.

The Dupti hospital, which serves 1.1 million people, including hundreds of thousands of refugees, has seen its funding grow since April. Admissions to the clinic for children with severe malnutrition have already increased this year. Some weeks, the mortality rate for patients is as high as 20%. A total of 35 children have died in the last eight weeks, and two-thirds of them perished within 48 hours of being admitted.

“The vast majority of people in Afar do not have access to basic healthcare, food, and water,” Veicht stated. Conflict, displacement, a lack of healthcare, a scarcity of food and water, as well as a lack of adequate humanitarian response

As a first step, “huge humanitarian relief” is needed for displaced persons and vulnerable host communities, said Veicht. Water, food, and health care are all essential.

Only 20% of Afar’s health facilities are operational because they have been damaged, abandoned, or underfunded. At Dupti hospital, almost 80% of the malnourished children had no prior access to healthcare. As a result of their inability to access basic necessities like healthcare, food, and clean water, many patients become malnourished and develop life-threatening diseases.

Malnourished children from displaced families make up approximately two-thirds of the patients at Dupti’s hospital, pushing increasing admissions. The ward at Dupti hospital’s 14-bed therapeutic feeding centre quickly became overcrowded with two or more patients per bed when MSF began assisting the facility in April.

Unless the humanitarian response in Afar is stepped up quickly, many people will be pushed to the brink of death. The authorities must act rapidly to stop the spread of sickness and death as a result of Ethiopia’s nutritional crisis.

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