UN agencies rush aid to fight deadly illness in flood-ravaged Somalia

13 February 2007

Although the waters are receding in impoverished and strife-torn central and southern Somalia after months of flooding, United Nations agencies are working to deal with a surge in deadly diarrhoea and malaria caused by stagnant and contaminated water sources, the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) said today.

“Whatever the situation in Central/Southern Somalia, UNICEF and WHO (World Health Organization) have always retained a presence on the ground to deliver supplies and services to improve the lives of children and their families,” said UNICEF Representative Christian Balslev-Olesen.

“In this instance, we are working with partner organizations and communities to test and clean-up all water sources and ensure that affected people get the medical treatment they need.”

Over 440 people have been admitted to the InterSoS hospital in Jowhar, central Somalia, for the treatment of acute watery diarrhoea, 235 of these were children under age five. Of 42 reported deaths, 16 were in Belet Weyne, 5 in Buulo Burte, 14 in Jalalaqsi and seven in Jowhar regional hospital.

So far this year, UNICEF and WHO have supplied medical equipment and two water tanks to the InterSoS Hospital Jowhar to combat the diarrhoea outbreak, as well as one full diarrhoeal disease kit (for 100 severe and 400 moderately-affected patients) and intravenous infusions. Supplies have also been provided to the Somali Red Crescent Society and the International Medical Corps.

Last week, UNICEF also airlifted into central southern Somalia over 5,000 bars of soap, 50 thousand sachets of oral rehydration salts and 200 intravenous rehydration kits in addition to enough water purification tablets to provide 47,000 households with 10 litres of clean water daily for a month.

The UN warned last November that up to 1 million people in southern Somalia may have been directly affected by the flooding, which was the worst in 50 years, deepening a humanitarian crisis already exacerbated by the recent fighting in a country that has not had a functioning national government since 1991. The recent flooding is also estimated to have affected around 2 million people in other countries of the Horn of Africa.

 

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