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Somalia: ICRC combats cholera outbreak in Mogadishu

29-01-1998 News Release 98/04

Although the deyr , the shorter of Somalia's two rainy seasons, should have long been over by now, rain continues to fall in areas hit by torrential downpours since last October. The prevailing floods, which have paradoxically left so many places without drinking water and sanitation, have caused a rapid spread in the cholera epidemic. The ICRC, however, has responded quickly, and the initial results are starting to be seen.

At Mogadishu's Benadir hospital, for example, the number of cholera patients has dropped considerably, with daily admissions down from over 120 to around 50. Since the beginning of its emergency operation against the disease, the ICRC has provided 2,659 litres of intravenous fluids, 54,620 sachets of ORS (oral rehydration salts) and 12,000 antibiotic tablets in the rehydration centres it has set up.

On 17 January, following a survey carried out by an ICRC health delegate, another rehydration centre was opened in Balad, north-east of Mogadishu, where cases of severe diarrhoea and deaths had been reported since early December. The running of the centre, which so far has had 56 admissions and recorded two deaths, is now in the hands of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies. The Federation has also taken over responsibility for the Afgoi centre north of Mogadishu.

Meanwhile, the ICRC continues to focus on cholera awareness and prevention. Two mobile teams, each with a qualified nurse and sanitation staff, are working in other villages further afield in the Balad and Afgoi areas. They are training their local counterparts in preventive methods, with mobilization of the population, early oral rehydration and hygiene awareness forming part of the programme. The ICRC teams also provide the local health workers with basic items such as chlorine and ORS so that they can start the rehydration process on the spot, thereby reducing the number of people who die before they can be treated at the centres.

Although the situation is now more under control, fresh outbreaks of cholera continue to occur.  Latest reports indicate several cases of severe diarrhoea in Baidoa, which at present is inaccessible by land as the road was washed away by the floods. Once the road is passable again, an ICRC/Somali Red Crescent Society health team will assess the situation and take action if necessary.