Famine and cholera epidemic in Somalia

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Somalia is at risk of a cholera epidemic in addition to the famine

In addition to the current famine, a cholera epidemic is now threatening the population in Somalia. Since the beginning of the year, over 4,000 patients in Somalia have had to be treated for dangerous diarrheal disease, with the number of diseases increasing by 11 percent in the past few weeks alone, reports the World Health Organization (WHO).

According to the WHO, in the African state, which is already shaken by the hunger disaster, children under the age of five are currently suffering from the infectious disease cholera. 181 cholera patients have already died. In view of the significant increase in the number of reported diseases in the past week, "one can certainly speak of a cholera epidemic", said WHO employee Michel Yao.

Famine causes refugee flows The hunger catastrophe in Somalia has already claimed tens of thousands of lives and triggered massive refugee flows towards the neighboring country Kenya and the capital Mogadishu. Hoping to get some water and food here, around 100,000 people have fled to Mogadishu in the past few months, 440,000 to Kenya. Almost half a million people who have fled here from other regions of the country currently live in the capital of Somalia. The experts cite the drought that has persisted for years as the cause of the current famine, which can also be seen in regions of Kenya and Ethiopia. In addition, the ongoing violent conflicts between rebellious militias and the controversial central government have played a major role in the current catastrophe. For example, various international aid organizations have been unable to operate in southern Somalia since early 2010 for security reasons, since the Al-Shabab militia is in charge. As one of the few aid organizations that are still active in the area, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has therefore further expanded its work to support the approximately 1.1 million people living in southern Somalia.

Fluxes of refugees increase the risk of epidemics But the efforts of the aid organizations have not been able to avert the hunger catastrophe and hundreds of thousands of people are currently moving through the country in refugee flows. These flows of refugees, in turn, pose an increased risk of epidemics, warns the World Health Organization. Cholera outbreaks have already been reported from several regions in Somalia and the number of patients requiring medical care for extreme diarrhea typical of cholera has increased from 3,839 to 4,272 in the past week. An increase of eleven percent, which, according to WHO employee Michel Yao, can be seen as a clear sign of the outbreak of a cholera epidemic. The cholera bacteria are mostly transmitted via drinking water contaminated with faeces and cause extreme diarrhea and vomiting (gastroenteritis). Cholera infection is extremely life-threatening for children and people who are already weakened, since the massive loss of fluid can result in a lack of fluid and further health problems, such as pneumonia, parotid gland inflammation or blood poisoning as a result of cholera infection, the expert explained. So far, as a result of the current spread of cholera in Somalia, 181 people have died of the consequences of the bacterial infection, with children under the age of five in particular being among the victims, the WHO reports.

Twelve million people at risk of hunger According to the WHO, more than twelve million people are currently at risk of hunger in the East African state, including two million children. Tens of thousands have already died of malnutrition and, according to the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF), more than half a million children could starve to death if international aid did not take effect quickly. "We can save lives if we act now," said UNICEF spokeswoman Marixie Mercado. However, the United Nations' call for donations of over $ 2.4 billion has so far lagged behind expectations and has so far contributed only half of the amount envisaged. According to the WHO experts, quick action is not only necessary due to the famine itself, but also because the cholera epidemic could otherwise reach such an extent that it would also affect tens of thousands of Somalis. The population urgently needs to be given access to unpolluted drinking water in order to avoid a further increase in cholera infections. (fp)

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