GENEVA, (Reuters) – A cholera epidemic is spreading in famine-hit Somalia, with alarming numbers of cases among people driven to the capital Mogadishu by a lack of food and water, the World Health Organization (WHO) said yesterday.
The intestinal infection, often linked to contaminated drinking water, causes severe diarrhoea and vomiting, leaving small children especially vulnerable to death from dehydration, according to the United Nations agency.
Some 4,272 cases of acute watery diarrhoea have been recorded so far this year just in Banadir Hospital in Mogadishu, mainly children under age five, causing 181 deaths, Dr. Michel Yao of the WHO told a news briefing.
“The number of cases is two or even three times than what was there last year. So we can say that we have an epidemic of cholera going on,” Yao said. Seasonal outbreaks have been recorded for the past three years in the Horn of Africa country.
Cholera outbreaks have now been confirmed in several regions, according to the WHO, and Yao said population movements increased the risk of the disease spreading further.
An estimated 100,000 Somalis — driven by drought, famine in southern areas and fighting — have fled to Mogadishu over the past two months in search of food, water, shelter and protection, Adrian Edwards of the U.N. refugee agency said.