Cholera epidemic spreading in Somalia, WHO warns

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.

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