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Somalia: Over 9,000 cases of cholera recorded in three months

11-03-1998 News Release 98/10

Since December 1997 over 9,000 people have been treated for cholera in Somalia. About 1,000 patients were treated during the same month at the " SOS Children " hospital in Mogadishu, and the capital's other medical facilities have handled 7,460 cases since the end of last year. Elsewhere in the country -- in Balad, Afgoi, Awdegle, Hawadle, Jamame and Boo -- a further 696 cases were recorded.

In cooperation with other aid agencies, the ICRC is supplying the facilities at Benadir, Bermuda, Awdegle, Hawadle, Boo, Jamame and Wanlaweyne with intravenous fluids, oral rehydration salts (ORS) and antibiotics, and restoring sanitation facilities to working order where necessary.

The ICRC is also pursuing its prevention and education programme, particularly in remote villages. Joint ICRC/Somali Red Crescent Society teams are training local health workers in preventive methods: raising public awareness of the disease, underlining the importance of hygiene and providing oral rehydration as soon as first symptoms appear. The teams are also supplying chlorine for water purification and ORS for on-the-spot treatment, thereby aiming to reduce the number of people who succumb to the disease before reaching cholera treatment centres.

" The cholera epidemic isn't over yet. In fact, many people are expecting another sharp increase in a month's time, with the arrival of the rainy season " , said Verena Krebs, ICRC health delegate in charge of the programme. The exceptionally large number of people affected by the cholera -- so far almost double the total recorded throughout the epidemic in 1997 -- is partly due to the floods which have plagued East Africa s ince last October. " The floods have left the inhabitants vulnerable and brought about major population movements, which greatly increases the risks of the disease being transmitted " .