World Health organization officials say an “unprecedented” outbreak of cholera in Somalia is linked to the drought that began in October 2016, creating widespread shortages of clean drinking water and food.
There are more than 40,000 suspected cases since the beginning of the year, with nearly 700 deaths to date, according to WHO numbers discussed in the British medical journal The Lancet on Friday.
“Cholera is endemic in Somalia, but Abdinasir Abubakar, an epidemiologist with WHO, said ‘the severity and extent of the current outbreak is unprecedented,’” writes author Andrew Green. Abubakar said the cholera crisis has now reached 75 percent of regions in the country though new case totals may be slowing.
The death toll in Somalia’s cholera outbreak was expected to double by the end of June, United Nations officials said last month.
In the adjacent Somali region of Ethiopia, where 90 percent of the nation’s acute watery diarrhoea (AWD) reports are concentrated, there have been 33,000 such cases and 776 deaths, according to WHO. Government health officials in Ethiopia have not confirmed that those cases are actually diagnosed as cholera.
“There is also the risk of international spread due to cross-border movement between Somalia, Kenya, and South Sudan, which are also experiencing the effects of the drought,” the WHO said in last week’s update on outbreaks across the continent.
Nearly half of all counties in South Sudan have reported new cases in recent weeks, as the number of suspected cholera cases approaches 8,000. Tanzania also continues to recover from its second-worst cholera outbreak ever recorded, and the worst to hit the nation in 20 years.
Elsewhere, WHO is continuing to monitor the Ebola situation in Democratic Republic of Congo, where no new cases have been reported and the last confirmed case was on May 11. The measles outbreak in South Sudan – where 15 children died this week from contaminated polio vaccines – also continues.
Image: United Nations