News / Africa

Cholera Awareness Campaign Begins in Mogadishu

Lisa Schlein

A campaign to stamp out cholera is being launched on Friday in Mogadishu, Somalia.  The campaign, which is being led by Somalia's minister of health with the participation of the World Health Organization, aims to raise awareness of cholera and acute watery diarrhea among the Somali population.

Cholera is endemic in Somalia.  However, efforts in recent years to chlorinate the water supply in the capital, Mogadishu and to improve hygiene and sanitation have prevented a serious outbreak of the disease since 2007, when an estimated 67,000 people became ill.

However, the country has experienced a smaller-scale outbreak this year.  A member of the World Health Organization's Horn of Africa Team, Christian Lindmeier, blames the situation on continuing conflict and the influx of some 100,000 people into Mogadishu, many of whom were displaced by the country's drought.

"Since January this year, about 60,000 cases of acute watery diarrhea and cholera have been reported in south-central Somalia.  About 75 percent of all cases are children under the age of five," said Lindmeier.  "For November alone, more than 6,300 were reported, boys and girls under the age of five and women amongst the most vulnerable hit by the disease.  The ultimate aim of this public awareness campaign launched today is to ensure that households have at least one person who knows how to prevent cholera and what to do in case symptoms occur."  

Lindmeier says there are indications that the epidemic might finally be getting under control.  He says the first hopeful sign of this appeared in the second week of December, which showed a slight decrease in the number of cases.

Unfortunately, he notes, heavy fighting continues in many parts of Somalia.  And, this is causing a disruption in health facilities.  He says many challenges lie ahead before the disease can be brought under control.  

Turning to Djibouti, a cholera epidemic in that country also appears to be turning around.  The World Health Organization reports some 5,000 cases of acute watery diarrhea in the country, mainly in the capital, Djibouti city, this year.  However, he says last week's data show a downward trend.

Lindemeier says WHO has refurbished and outfitted a diarrhea treatment center in Djibouti city.  He says it is ready for use.   And, this, he says will relieve a lot of strain on the local hospital, which has been treating diarrhea cases along with other diseases.

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