This week I traveled with Second Lady Dr. Jill Biden to refugee camps in eastern Kenya along the Somali border to witness the impact of the most acute food security emergency on earth. We need your help, and your help I promise will make a difference.

Yesterday we visited intake centers just on the border where over 1,500 Somalis who walked for weeks with their starving children (over 29,000 young children have died of malnutrition and disease in Somalia alone over the past 90 days) arrive each day to find food and a safe place to live. But the camps are at capacity (the Dadaab camp has 430,000 refugees today; it was designed for 90,000) and new arrivals are left to fend for themselves on the outskirts of the camp.
Yesterday, I visited the Dadaab Refugee Complex in eastern Kenya with Second Lady Dr. Jill Biden and USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah. While there, we heard stories from mothers with their children who had lost their husbands. Families who had journeyed for weeks to arrive at the camp malnourished and in dire need of medical assistance. And, worst of all, parents who had heartbreaking stories of losing children in the flight from famine in Somalia.
Over 29,000 young children have died of malnutrition and disease in Somalia over the past 90 days. We are now on our way to the Horn of Africa to see what more we as a nation can do.

Early this morning, our plane left Washington DC bound for East Africa. I’m flying with Second Lady Dr. Jill Biden and USAID Administrator Raj Shah to study the famine affecting the lives of over 12 million people, many of them children.

In fact, it is now being called “The Children’s Famine.”

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                                       
August 5, 2011                                                                                       

 

Contact Information:
Jenny Dyer   (615) 818-5579

Frist, Biden to Visit East Africa Refugee Camp

Senator Bill Frist, MD and Second Lady Dr. Jill Biden will travel to the Horn of Africa to witness the severe famine affecting almost 12 million people in the region.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton released yesterday that the delegation led by Biden would be traveling to Kenya this weekend on a fact-finding mission.

Over 2.3 million children are estimated to be suffering from malnutrition in the Horn of Africa. If these children and others do not receive food supplies, clean water, and health care in the coming weeks, mortality rates will soar.

Doctor-Senator Frist is especially interested in the medical needs of the victims in the refugee camps: “We know these refugees, who have traveled so many miles from their homes, desperately need food, water, shelter, and safety. But they also need medical attention. Children especially need access to vaccinations, Vitamin A, deworming tablets, and oral rehydration to fight sickness and disease.”

Measles, polio, malaria, and diarrhea are constant threats to the lives of the most vulnerable in these camps.

Frist will be observing the distribution of care at a camp and hearing the stories of the refugees so that he can promote awareness and advocacy on behalf of these people living on the brink of death.

Aid agencies currently estimate that over a $1 billion shortfall is needed immediately to stop the spread of the famine and to begin to save lives in this critical period.

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by Jenny Eaton Dyer, Ph.D.

The numbers are staggering. Over 12 million people are reported to be in dire need of food and clean water. And more continue to trickle in daily to the refugee camps. Somalia has seen famines before, but this is said to be the worst. Perhaps the greatest crisis of the decade.

Today, Mohammad Ibrahim writes about the emergency in the NYT, "Somalis Waste Away as Insurgents Block Escape from Famine."

It is an extremely complex and difficult situation. Aid agencies are having trouble getting into and providing care for the most vunerable. Governmental funding is especially and desperately needed to avert the loss of millions of lives. 

How can you help? For starters, support Save the Children.

East Africa Drought and Food Crisis: A dollar a day for 100 days can help us keep a child alive. Give online at www.savethechildren.org/food-crisis-6 or text "SURVIVE" to 20222 to donate $10 (Standard message rates apply)

Recommended Reading: "Global Food Crisis Takes Heavy Toll in East Africa," by Samuel Loewenberg, in The Lancet.

When thinking about public health in the developed world, we generally think about preventing chronic disease through behavior change. However, in Mshenguville (the informal settlement/shack town in Munsieville), the public health needs are drastically different and much more basic. One of the key issues in Mshenguville is the need for basic sanitation/waste management. Illegal dumping around various sites in Mshenguville occurs because people do not think that there other alternatives and do not understand the consequences of poor sanitation.
Since my last post, I have been very, very busy! First, the skin cancer prevention program I’m developing is really coming together. At this point, I have developed two of the four modules, completed a formal recording of “Sabrina’s Story,” a local melanoma survivor’s story, with the help of ETSU’s Communications Department, and scheduled meetings with each of our region’s eight county Health Councils as a way of disseminating the program once it’s complete. As I will be collecting baseline and posttest data from 135 students at David Crockett High School, the pilot site for the program, I will also begin the IRB (Institutional Review Board) application and approval process very soon.

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