Via The New York Times: As Cholera Spreads, Somalia Begins Vaccination Campaign. Excerpt:
Somalia, which has been hit by a series of crises that sound like a page from the Book of Job, is starting a major effort to vaccinate 450,000 people against its latest plague: cholera.
The country, in the Horn of Africa, has long suffered from weak central government, fighting among clan warlords and terrorist acts committed by Al Shabab, an Islamic militant group with some factions aligned with Al Qaeda.
In 1993, the capital, Mogadishu, was the scene of the “Black Hawk Down” battle between United States Army Rangers and clan militias. American troops sent to protect food aid shipments ended up fighting the warlords who were seizing them.
The world’s largest refugee camp complex in Dadaab, Kenya, contains 260,000 Somali refugees who fled the civil war in the 1990s or subsequent floods and famine.
Now about three million people in Somalia face starvation caused by a long drought. Last week, the United Nations said its appeal for $864 million in aid had raised less than a third of that amount.
Making matters worse, cholera is spreading, attacking people already weakened by malnutrition.
“Ever since the drying up of the Shabelle and Juba Rivers, people have been forced to move out to seek water and food in unfamiliar places,” said Dr. Abdinasir Abubakar, a cholera expert in the World Health Organization’s health emergencies program and leader of the campaign to deploy 900,000 doses of cholera vaccine supplied by Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance.
The two rivers, both originating in Ethiopia, are normally Somalia’s only perennial streams, and the flood plain between them is the country’s breadbasket. Many wells have run dry, Dr. Abubakar added, so people drink from whatever puddles they can find, which may be contaminated by feces-borne diseases, including cholera.
In 2015, the country had 15,619 known cholera cases and 548 deaths; this year it has already had over 13,000 cases and 333 deaths, Dr. Abubakar said.
For purposes of comparison, Haiti has so far this year reported 3.585 cholera cases and 56 deaths.