12 March 2017

Somalia: Aid Agency Warns of Surge in Cholera Cases

Photo: Stuart Price/UN
Somali famine victims waiting for treatment for their malnourished and dehydrated children (file photo).

A global aid agency, Save the Children, on Friday warned of an increase in cholera cases in Somalia which has claimed 200 lives since January amid a looming famine.

The charity said its health and nutrition clinics are reporting "all the early warnings signs" of an avoidable catastrophe, with deaths from cholera and acute watery diarrhea rising sharply.

"These diseases are death sentences for children whose bodies have been weakened by hunger. More than 8,400 cases of the diseases have already been confirmed in 2017, 200 of which have been fatal," the charity said in a statement.

Save the Children officials are warning that the scale of the suffering is even greater than at the equivalent stage in 2011. It also warned that the international community is repeating the failures that led to the deaths of over a quarter of a million Somalis in 2011.

"The surge in deaths during the 2011 drought happened in April -- and the drought was less severe then. The international community ignored the early warning signs, failed to act decisively and waited until July to declare a famine. They are now repeating all of the mistakes from the 2011 playbook," said Hassan Saadi Noor, Save the Children's Country Director in Somalia.

The number of cases has relentlessly increased since the drought began late last year; from fewer than 200 in the first week of November to nearly 1,400 in the second week of February.

Save the Children has dispatched an emergency treatment team to the epicentre of the cholera crisis, across the Bay region and its capital Baidoa, where 72 percent of the cases have been reported.

"Saving these lives and rebuilding livelihoods will require concerted action by the international community, and that action needs to start now," Noor said.

The charity and other agencies are reporting a dramatic deterioration in child health and nutritional status. Some 6.2 million people, around half of the country, are in urgent need of support.

"Given the weight of evidence, the scale of suffering and the memory of 2011, the international community's response to the crisis facing Somalia's children is indefensible and unforgivable," said Noor.

Save the Children called on donors to deliver immediate financing for Somalia. "We need to see the G7, other donors, and UN agencies drawing up a plan for delivering real money," said Noor.

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