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RNIS Update April 1998

Refugee Nutrition Information System (RNIS)

In the most recent RNIS report (No 23), flooding in the Dadaab area camps leading to destruction of infrastructure and livestock was described. Flooding had made many access roads to the camps impassable, and relief food had to be airdropped to the refugees.

A two-stage cluster sample nutrition survey was carried out in February 1998. In Ifo camp, wasting, defined as weight/height <-2 z scores, was measured at 16.1%, with 1.0% severe wasting (defined as weight/height <-3 z scores). Oedema was measured at 1.6%. In Dagahaley camp, wasting was measured at 10.9% with 0.9% severe wasting. Oedema was measured at 1.6%. In Hagadera camp, wasting was 14.7% with 1.5% severe wasting. Oedema was measured at 0.6%. For all camps, coverage of selective feeding programmes is low, particularly for therapeutic feeding.

There are some new arrivals from Somalia to these camps who were fleeing the effects of the El Nino rains. These people are said to be arriving in a poor nutritional state. Many of these new arrivals do not yet have a ration card and are therefore largely dependent on sharing of rations for food. Not surprisingly, during the nutritional survey, higher levels of malnutrition were noted among those without a ration card when compared to those with a ration card.

In general, the nutritional status of the children under five has not changed significantly in the Dadaab area camps (see graph). The exception to this is in Ifo camp, which is also the camp most seriously affected by the floods. While levels of wasting remain high, the fact that there was no decline in nutritional status is thought to be due in large part to massive efforts by WFP to airlift food aid to the affected population during the floods.

In light of this, it is critical that funding for the air operation to assist these refugees is provided at sufficient levels. A recent WFP Emergency Report (17 April 1998) states the operation is facing a cash shortfall for the special air operations. In addition, only 62% of the food needs for the operation have been pledged. Other priorities include improving coverage of selective feeding programmes and rebuilding destroyed infrastructure, particularly roads. (based on: Nutrition Survey Report for Ifo, Dagahaley and Hagadera Camps, MSF-Belgium, February 1998; WPP Emergency Report No. 16 of 1998, 17 April 1998; Personal Communication, UNHCR, 22/04/98)


Recent flooding along the Juba and Shabelle rivers led to population displacements and massive crop destruction. As the flood waters began to recede in March 1998, people began returning home, replanting fields when possible.

A series of rapid food security assessments have been carried out to assess the situation and give a general idea on the nutritional status of the populations as the floods recede. An assessment was carried out in Qorioley and Merka districts in the Lower Shabelle region in mid-March 1998. The food economy in the area has been seriously interrupted by the recent flooding. For example, the collapse of the banana industry, which previously provided a vital source of income for almost a quarter of a million people, is having the most profound impact on the food security of the seasonal workers. There are reports of many seasonal workers having to beg for food, and of alarming increases in child malnutrition, particularly oedema.

Some of the reasons for this decline in nutritional status were cited as:

  • abrupt change in food consumption in terms of diversity and quantity;
  • consumption of low quality cereals;
  • reduced caring capacity of parents since both are looking for food;
  • outbreak of disease, particularly malaria.

The situation in Afmadow and Hagar districts in Lower Juba was described as improving but fragile in the most recent RNIS Report (No. 23). More recent reports are that the situation has continued to improve and many of the temporary camps used during the height of the flooding are now reportedly empty. This improvement is attributed to two main factors: first the receding flood waters and second the continuation of WFP food deliveries, often by air.

However, household food availability is said to be low. The purchasing power of the people is also low and prices on the market are high. This means the situation remains tenuous for many people, and food aid is likely to be needed for the months to come.

Another assessment was carried out in Bulo Hawa and Dolo in the Gedo region, where the situation is reportedly getting back to normal. This area is dependent on food supplies from Mogadishu so when the road was impassable during the floods, food was in short supply. However, prices remain high. In recent rapid assessments around Bulo Hawa indicators in some of the poorer areas were of a serious nutritional situation. It was determined that the nutrition programmes in the area are insufficient and need to be improved.

As the seasonal rains begin, there is widespread concern that this will lead to renewed flooding. People have little to no food reserves, and the next harvest, which is likely to be greatly reduced, is not due until July.

In light of these assessments, WFP food aid is an important part of maintaining food availability for many families and should be continued. This will require additional support from the donor community, and is likely to be needed at least until the July harvest. There is currently a 32% shortfall in food aid pledges for this operation. In addition, WFP is facing a cash shortfall for the critical air operation. Nutrition rehabilitation programmes need to be improved and efforts to control malaria are also needed. (based on: Bulo Hawa and Dolo/Gedo Region - Assessment of the Nutritional Situation 17-19 March - FSAU/ACF; Overview of the Nutritional Situation in Afmadow and Hagar Districts, Lower Juba, FSAU 2 April 1998; Overview of Food Security and Nutritional Status in Qorioley and Merka Districts, Lower Shabelle Region, FSAU Mar 1998; Bleak Perspectives for the Banana Industry in the Shabelle Valley and its Impact on Food Security, FSAU, 3 April 1998; WPP Emergency Report No. 16 of 1998, 17 April 1998; Personal Communication, FSAU, 22/04/98)

Assessments and Survey included in Update (April 1998)

Survey Conducted By
% Wasting*
% Severe Wasting*
Sample Size
Sampling method
Ifo Camp, Kenya
2stage cluster
Dagahaley Camp, Kenya
2stage cluster
Hagadera Camp, Kenya
2stage cluster
Qorioley, Lower Shabelle, Somalia
67.7 (MUAC<125mm/oedema)
25.8 (MUAC<110mm/oedema)
These are quick assesssments to give an indication of the nutritional status. Children were selected on a transect of the camp or village.These are not random sample surveys.
Belet Amin, Gedo Region, Somalia
33.3 (MUAC<125mm/oedema)
11.4 (MUAC<110mm/oedema)
Bulo Hawa, Gedo Region, Somalia
66.9 (MUAC<125mm/oedema)
11.1 (MUAC<110mm/oedema)

*Wasting is defined as wt/ht <-2z scores and severe wasting as <-3z scores unless otherwise noted.