Via The Guardian: 'We've never seen this drought, this disease': Somali families bury their dead. Excerpt:
There is no road to the hundred or so tin-roofed shacks scattered among scrubby trees that make up the village of Erdon, only a dusty track tracing a narrow path for 10 miles through the bush from the central Somalian town of Baidoa.
One morning last week, Iman Adam attended lessons given by a local cleric under a large tree. Afterwards the seven-year-old played and helped her mother with household chores.
As dusk approached, Iman began to vomit. Then came diarrhoea. Within hours, she was fading fast. Neighbours told her mother, Sadiye Ibrahim, of a new clinic in Baidoa that might save the child’s life. She strapped her now unconscious eldest to her back with a shawl and ran through the gathering night.
A fit, healthy adult could cover the distance to the town in two or three hours. Sadiye, weakened by weeks of living on a few handfuls of sorghum and a few litres of filthy water each day and carrying a sick child in the dark, took much longer. She arrived at the clinic close to midnight. Her daughter died a few hours later.
“We don’t know this disease. We have never seen this,” she said shortly after Iman’s funeral.
Hunger threatens Somalia again. With dearth comes disease, and with disease comes death.
Sadiye’s child was killed by cholera or a related bacterial infection, contracted because of poor sanitation. She suffered massive fluid loss leading to shock and organ failure. Cholera can kill a malnourished and dehydrated child in hours. It is easily treated, but only if the sick can get medical help fast. Endemic in Somali, cholera and other diseases are now spreading faster and further than anyone has seen for many years.
The drought too is the most severe in living memory. Aid agencies believe more than 6 million people in Somalia need assistance, of whom about half are threatened with famine. Two years have gone by without rain. Cattle are dead, wells dry and fields empty.
Earlier preparation and a generous response to appeals for funds mean the terrible scenes of the last famine in Somalia six years ago, which is thought to have killed 250,000 people, may yet be averted. But no one is certain. Some aid workers use studies of the 2011 famine to predict that at least 60,000 people are likely to die this year in a “best-case” scenario.