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Climate change triggers cholera outbreak in Somalia

Friday March 22, 2024

A man carries a sack through floodwater in Beledweyne, central Somalia. Flash flooding in central Somalia has killed 22 people and affected over 450,000, the UN's humanitarian agency OCHA said. Hassan Ali Elmi/AFP/Getty Images

AN outbreak of cholera, indirectly linked to climate change, has left at least 54 people dead in Somalia in recent months.

The waterborne disease outbreak is peaking, with nine people dying in the past week alone, representing the highest weekly death toll this year.

More than 59 percent of the 4 388 confirmed cases for 2024 or 2 605 people are children under five, according to the latest report from Somalia’s Ministry of Health and Human Services.

The current outbreak, which started in January, is understood to be the results of the large-scale flooding that took place in October and November 2023.

El Nino-induced flooding in November and December 2023 destroyed toilets and latrines, forcing communities, especially recently displaced families, into open defecation.

Flooding is linked to the climate crisis.

Mohamed Abdiladif, Save the Children’s Acting Country Director for Somalia, expressed concern that the cholera outbreak would spiral out of control when the rainy season starts, in a month, if urgent action was not taken by government and donors to provide enough clean drinking water and sanitation facilities to communities.

“These vulnerable communities have faced back to back tragedies having been forced out of their homes by flooding and conflict,” he said.

Save the Children has committed to providing humanitarian aid, including medical supplies, drugs and cholera kits.

“However, more funds are to provide hygiene and sanitation items to prevent further spread of the cholera,” Abdiladif appealed.

Apart from climate change, Somalia is devastated by the insurgency perpetrated by the Al-Shabaab terror group.

Over 4 million people or 21 per cent of the population are facing food insecurity.


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