Diarrhea :: Acute watery diarrhea claims 39 lives in Somalia

Thirty-nine people have been confirmed dead after an outbreak of acute watery diarrhoea in the Hiiraan and Middle Shabelle region, south-central Somalia, according to the United Nations World Health Organization (WHO).

From 5 January to 30 January, a total of 312 cases were recorded in the Hiiraan region, of whom 34 died, according to WHO Somalia. Reports on Monday giving higher numbers of cases and deaths are not verifiable.

The WHO figures can be broken down into 160 cases and 15 deaths in Beletweyne; in Buulo Burte, 108 cases and five deaths; and in Jalalaqsi, 44 cases and 14 deaths. The organisation said that in Beletweyne, out of the six samples tested, only one was positive for cholera. “Cholera is endemic in Somalia and therefore one confirmed case does not mean it is an outbreak,” according to WHO Somalia.

The outbreak of acute watery diarrhoea is linked to recent floods that devastated the region and contaminated wells. The floods in late 2006 displaced tens of thousands of people in the region, and submerged large tracts of farmland. In Middle Shabelle region, WHO reported: “Between 15 January and 4 February, a total of 248 cases with five deaths were recorded in Jowhar hospital, managed by InterSOS [an Italian NGO].”

The response to the diarrhoea outbreak is complicated by the fact there are no facilities for cholera testing, and samples must be flown to Nairobi, the Kenyan capital, for confirmation.

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