Famine victims facing disease threat
Published 14/08/2011 | 05:00
Outbreaks of measles and cholera are striking down Somali children, resulting in dozens of new fatalities in a country already struggling to deal with the humanitarian crisis brought on by severe drought and conflict.
Hundreds of thousands of people have fled into overflowing refugee camps in recent months in search of food and sanctuary, but many more remain in rebel-held famine zones where aid agencies have only limited access.
The World Health Organisation said last Friday that Somalia was experiencing a cholera "epidemic".
In just one hospital in Mogadishu, there have been 4,272 recorded cases of acute watery diarrhoea, a key indicator of the risk of cholera, causing 181 deaths. Most of the victims were aged under five. Laboratory tests suggest 60 per cent of the infections were cholera.
At least 100,000 Somalis have fled to Mogadishu in the last two months. An even greater number have travelled to drought-affected refugee camps in Kenya and Ethiopia.
In Kenya's Dadaab settlement, about 1,400 Somalis arrive every day, pushing the number of recorded refugees past 400,000. Aid workers say that unless these families are moved to more suitable areas before the next rains, fresh cholera outbreaks are likely.
At the Dollo Ado refugee camps in south-eastern Ethiopia, home to nearly 120,000 Somali refugees, there was an urgent measles vaccination campaign this week. UNHCR said 93 cases of measles had been recorded in the camps.