Cholera Kills At Least 54 in Somalia; Humanitarians Call for Action

washington — At least 54 people have lost their lives to cholera in Somalia in recent months. Nine of those deaths occurred within the past week, marking the highest weekly death toll this year, humanitarian group Save the Children said.   

In an interview with VOA Somali, Mohamed Abdulkadir, acting operations director for Save the Children Somalia, said the statistic highlights how vulnerable children are to the deadly disease. 

“In collaboration with Somalia’s Ministry of Health and Human Services, Save the Children reveals that among 4,388 confirmed cases in 2024, 59% belong to children under the age of five,” Abdulkadir said. 

In the southern states of the country, Mogadishu, the country’s capital, has experienced a significant surge in reported cholera cases in the past two weeks. 

Abdulkadir said 586 new cases have been reported in 23 districts, with 331 of them affecting children under the age of five. 

The outbreak, which began in January of this year, is believed to be a direct consequence of severe flooding that occurred in October and November 2023.

“We believe that the recent devastating flooding in areas like Mogadishu, Beledweyne and Baidoa has contributed to the outbreak of the disease,” said Abdulkadir.   

He said Save the Children is urgently calling for action from local governments and health agencies to combat the rapid spread of cholera. 

“We call for an action from the Somali federal government and the local governments to fight against this highly contagious disease, which primarily spreads through contaminated water areas with inadequate sewage treatment, flooded regions,” he said.

People who lack safe drinking water are particularly susceptible to the cholera outbreak, especially in the wake of flooding, he added.

To prevent further transmission of the disease, he said Save the Children is implementing an emergency response strategy. The aid agency is establishing two cholera treatment centers, providing essential hygiene kits and water treatment supplies in Beledweyne. 

Abdulkadir emphasized the gravity of the situation, stating that Somalia is at the forefront of the climate crisis. 

He said the combination of relentless rainfall, floods, and a devastating drought has left children and families extremely vulnerable to illness. He stressed the urgent need for clean drinking water and sanitation facilities to prevent the cholera outbreak from spiraling out of control when the rainy season begins in a month. 

In 2023, Somalia recorded more than 18,300 cases of cholera, with 10,000 of those cases affecting children under the age of five. Both Save the Children and the Somali government attributed the devastating rise in numbers to the destructive El Nino flooding in November and December, which destroyed toilets and latrines. Consequently, many communities, particularly those recently displaced by flooding and conflict, resorted to open defecation. 

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