SOMALIA: Dozens die in diarrhoea outbreak

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

At least 100 people have died in the past four weeks after an outbreak of acute watery diarrhoea (AWD) in and around the town of Abudwaaq, in Galgadud region of central Somalia, medical sources said on 18 November.

"Since 3 October, 100 people have died in Abudwaaq town; there are some people who have died in the villages around it but we don't have numbers for them," said Mohamed Jama, the only doctor in the area. "This is the highest mortality rate I have witnessed in my career."

Jama said that so far 500 cases of AWD had been registered in the hospital, where a treatment centre was set up. "These are the ones who made it here. We are getting reports of people dying in the outlying villages, but unfortunately we cannot reach them.”

He blamed the outbreak on contaminated water drawn from wells and "barkads" (water catchments).

He said the Somali Red Crescent Society (SRCS) had provided oral rehydration salts (ORS). “We have enough stocks of ORS to deal with it, if the situation does deteriorate," he added.

However, a lot more needed to done to ensure all the water wells and catchments were cleaned up, he said. “We have managed to put chlorine in some of the water points but not all."

Hassan Bulhan, a leader of a youth group carrying out awareness campaigns in the town, said a taskforce had been set up two weeks ago to deal with the outbreak and a campaign mounted to warn people against drinking water that has not been chlorinated.

"We are trying to reach as many people as we can to inform people on what to do to fight the spread of the disease," he said.

Bulhan appealed for immediate help and urged international aid agencies to come to the aid of the affected. "They [the agencies] will be safe here," he added.

Mohamed Yusuf, a member of the elders' council of Abudwaaq, told IRIN that other than SRCS, no aid agency was operating in the area.

"They [SRSC] are doing everything they can but it is not enough, we need help from the bigger agencies to reach the villages," he said.