SOMALIA–In a bid to combat the ongoing cholera outbreak in Somalia, the country has received a significant boost with the arrival of 1.4 million vials of oral cholera vaccine valued at US$2.5 million. 

The outbreak, which has plagued the nation since January, has already infected 4,388 people and claimed 54 lives, with a staggering two-thirds of the fatalities being children.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the number of reported cases this year is three times higher than the average during the corresponding period in the last three years, underscoring the severity of the situation.

Procured through the UN children’s agency UNICEF, the vaccines are set to be distributed strategically to five hotspot districts across Somalia. 

Among these districts, Bossaso in Puntland State, which has witnessed the highest case fatality rate, will receive 700,000 vials. 

Additional districts earmarked for vaccination include Daynile, Mahady, Buurhakaba, and Balcad.

In addition to the vaccines, UNICEF is also providing 40 cholera kits designed to treat approximately 4,000 people. These kits contain essential drugs and equipment crucial for cholera treatment.

Moreover, UNICEF and its partners are intensifying efforts to improve water, sanitation, and hygiene services in affected areas while also conducting community sensitization campaigns on preventive measures.

The surge in cholera cases is primarily attributed to El Nino-induced floods towards the end of the previous year, which displaced 1.2 million people. 

However, Somalia has been grappling with uninterrupted transmission of cholera since 2016 due to factors such as high population densities without access to safe water and proper sanitation, population movements within the country and across borders, and persistently high levels of malnutrition.

With the onset of the April-June Gu rainy season looming, there are concerns that Somalia may witness a further escalation in cholera cases. 

As a result, health authorities and partners have heightened their preparedness and response efforts, guided by a six-month action plan requiring US$ 5.9 million for implementation.

Cholera, an acute intestinal infection transmitted through contaminated food and water, poses a grave threat to public health. 

However, the availability of cholera vaccines, which are free and easily administered orally, offers a ray of hope in mitigating the impact of the outbreak, particularly among vulnerable populations, including children.

In 2023, Somalia reported over 18,300 cumulative cholera cases and 46 deaths, with more than half of the victims being children under the age of 5 years, underscoring the urgent need for sustained efforts to combat the disease.

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