SOMALIA: Acute watery diarrhoea kills 11 in Belet Hawo

Monday, March 3, 2008

An outbreak of acute watery diarrhoea (AWD) in and around the town of Belet Hawo, southwestern Somalia, has killed at least 11 people in the past three weeks, medical sources said on 28 February.

"Eleven people have so far died in Belet Hawo hospital and the villages around it," Saaid Mohamed Samatar, a doctor with the Gedo Health Consortium (GHC), said.

The district commissioner of Belet Hawo, Ahmed Mohamed Burkuus, said a taskforce had been set up two weeks ago to deal with the outbreak, mounting a campaign to warn people against drinking water that had not been chlorinated. "We are using radio to inform people on what to do to fight the spread of the disease," he said. “We have managed to put chlorine in all the water wells.”

Samatar said 263 cases of acute watery diarrhoea had been registered since the end of January. He said the highest number of cases was 80 per week but that was now declining. “This week we only registered 15 cases.”

Samatar blamed the outbreak on contaminated water drawn from wells. However, he said they had enough oral rehydration salts [ORS] and water chlorination tablets. “We have enough stocks of what we need to deal with the situation and should be able to contain it,” he added.

In a report issued on 28 February, the World Health Organization (WHO) confirmed the cases of suspected AWD reported from Belet Hawo in Gedo Region.

Belet Hawo is close to the Kenya-Somalia border, not far from Mandera town (northeastern Kenya), with frequent movement between the two towns.

A recent outbreak of cholera in Mandera may be contributing to the outbreak in Belet Hawo, said Samatar of the GHC.

WHO Somalia said "the AWD outbreak is still ongoing" in the town.

Burkuus said there was a serious water shortage in the area and people were drinking water “that they normally would not”. He said people and livestock were coming to the town in search of water. “Livestock has started dying due to a lack of water and pasture.”

Burkuus appealed for immediate help, particularly for pastoralists who have lost their livestock.

“We depend on livestock and when they start dying we are in trouble,” he said.

He said priority should be trucking water to the villages around the town of Belet Hawo.

Source: IRIN