More than 600 cases of acute watery diarrhoea, some of them confirmed to be cholera, have been reported in the Togdheer area of Somalia's self-declared republic of Somaliland and its capital, Hargeisa, since mid-May, a humanitarian organisation said.
Some eight people are known to have died of the disease.
Aid agencies were working with local health authorities to decontaminate water sources and improve sanitation, according to N. Paranietharan, health coordinator with the United Nations World Health Organization's (WHO) Somalia office. WHO and the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) have delivered treatment supplies to the affected areas, and a health sensitisation campaign was under way, he said. "Things are under control," he added.
Save the Children Alliance, which is also involved in efforts to stem the spread of cholera, said up to 70,000 people could be at risk if the disease was not contained quickly.
"Cholera spreads very quickly and can cause rapid, severe dehydration which is very difficult to control," Save the Children's Emergency Health Adviser, Elizabeth Berryman, said in a statement. "Children are particularly vulnerable to dehydration and severe cases of cholera are difficult to treat in children," she said.
Cholera is spread through contaminated food and water. Control measures being implemented include setting up oral rehydration centres, providing chlorine to treat contaminated water sources, such as shallow wells, and distributing oral rehydration salts to households. Communities were also being schooled in essential public health measures, including hand-washing, boiling of drinking water and basic food hygiene.