The UN children's fund, UNICEF, reports acute watery diarrhea, or AWD, is spreading at an alarming rate in Ethiopia, especially among children. Since April, UNICEF says AWD has killed about 140 people and 11,000 others have been diagnosed with the illness.
UNICEF says it is continuing to spread throughout the country. Its range now stretches from the Gambella area in western Ethiopia southward, to about 200 kilometers from the Kenyan border.
UNICEF spokesman Michael Bociurkiw says children are especially vulnerable because of the dehydration AWD causes. "AWD brings about severe dehydration. It is usually sparked by consumption of raw or improperly cooked food, lack of access to safe drinking water, and poor personal hygiene and environmental sanitation. It can spread swiftly through a population. In the case of Ethiopia, it has hit along a main transport route, so it is going about at a very rapid pace. We are monitoring the situation very carefully with daily situation reports," he said.
Bociurkiw says AWD is treated with oral rehydration salts. He says UNICEF has begun an education campaign that it hopes will eventually help stamp out the disease. As part of the campaign, the organization is printing out leaflets and pamphlets to tell people about proper cooking methods and good personal hygiene practices, such as washing hands.
UNICEF is working with the World Health Organization, the Organization for the Coordination of Humanitarian Assistance, and the government to bring the disease under control.