UNITED NATIONS (BNO NEWS) — The United Nations on Friday warned of a growing cholera outbreak among the displaced Somalis who have arrived in the country’s capital of Mogadishu.
The reported cholera epidemic is affecting a highly vulnerable population which has already escaped drought, famine and conflict in their hometowns. At least 181 people have so far died from suspected cholera cases in a single hospital in Mogadishu alone this year and there have been a number of confirmed cholera outbreaks across the country.
“Most [outbreaks] have been declared under control, but alarming rates of confirmed cholera cases among internally displaced people have been reported in Mogadishu,” World Health Organization (WHO) spokesperson Tarek Jasarevic told a news conference in Geneva on Friday.
An estimated 100,000 Somalis have fled to Mogadishu over the past two months in search of food, water, shelter and protection. In addition, the country’s capital was already accommodating more than 370,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) who were forced to leave their homes before the current wave of displacement.
The health of the IDPs in Mogadishu is already vulnerable and the threat of diseases like cholera is particularly high among the malnourished and those living in overcrowded camps for the displaced, the UN warned.
“The key concern is the root cause of cholera, which is related to water and sanitation,” said Michel Yao of the WHO. “Right now with IDPs and population movement, this increases the risk of further spread of the disease because we cannot control population movement.”
“The issue is to make sure that we have an integrated intervention with our water and sanitation partners so that we provide services to minimize the risk of spread,” added Yao.
Somalia has also seen an increase in cases of acute watery diarrhea, which has led to the deaths of at least 11 people, including four children, in Mogadishu, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).
To prevent and mitigate the risk of cholera, the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) is sending cholera kits to areas with rising numbers of acute watery diarrhea. It is also massively scaling up access to water, sanitation and hygiene for those areas of Mogadishu with a high concentration of newly arrived refugees.
Meanwhile, UNHCR stated that the second of three humanitarian flights landed at Mogadishu airport on Thursday, bringing a 32-ton consignment of shelter and other aid items.
The UN agency has been shipping relief supplies to Mogadishu by sea and land, but due to the increasing number of people in need of help, it decided to airlift supplies to save time.
Some 3.7 million people, nearly half the Somali population, are directly at risk of famine and tens of thousands have already perished.
An estimated 12.4 million people in the drought-hit Horn of Africa, which includes Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia, are facing severe food shortages and are in need of international assistance.
According to the UN, the drought which is causing the famine in the Eastern Horn of Africa is expected to continue until early 2012, and the number of people in acute livelihood crisis is expected to increase from 8.8 million in the coming months.