17 August 2017

Somalia: WHO Calls for Urgent Support to Combat Measles Outbreak

WHO and its health partners urgently need support in response to a measles outbreak in Somalia, according to a press release.

They are currently working with Somalia health authorities to offer essential health services.

To improve outbreak response activities and conduct a measles immunization campaign in November, WHO requires $6.8 million.

"Somalia is facing one of the worst humanitarian crises in the world. Millions of people, already on the brink of famine, are now at risk of rapidly spreading infectious diseases like cholera and measles," said Ghulam Popal, PhD, WHO representative in Somalia. "Normally, these diseases are easy to treat and prevent, but they can turn deadly when people are living in overcrowded spaces and are too weak to fight off infection."

According to WHO, the current measles outbreak included 14,823 suspected cases as of July 31. Insufficient rainfall and poor harvest have left millions in Somalia vulnerable to malnutrition and mass displacement and unable to access clean water and sanitation, creating a perfect climate for infectious disease outbreaks, the organization said.

Although WHO and its partners have vaccinated roughly 600,000 children aged 6 months to 5 years for measles across the country, transmission continues, facilitated by the humanitarian crisis, according to the release.

Millions of children are still under-vaccinated, with those aged younger than 10 years accounting for more than 80% of cases, WHO said.

To contain the outbreak, WHO is planning a nationwide campaign for November 2017 to stop transmission of the disease that will target 4.2 million children and strengthen routine immunization, according to the press release.

WHO is requesting $14.4 million to conduct the vaccination campaign -- with a cost of $3.36 per child -- of which $6.8 million is still needed.

Concurrently in Somalia, the oral cholera vaccination campaign conducted by WHO has successfully reached almost half a million vulnerable people, and the number of cases has declined by more than 2,000 between May and June, according to the release.

Health authorities said they believe that similar success may be achieved in controlling the measles outbreak with the correct interventions.

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