Drought-stricken Somalia battles hunger, cholera


Associated Press

BAIDOA, SOMALIA

An emaciated woman writhes on her hospital bed, weakly waving her bony hand to create a current of air.

Cholera patient Zeinab Hussein, a 50-year-old farmer, is one of thousands of desperate Somalis who have streamed into Baidoa in southwestern Somalia seeking food and medical care as a result the country’s prolonged drought. The influx has overwhelmed local and international aid agencies.

The hospital ward is filled with the sound of crying, malnourished children, many fed through tubes in their noses.

The new patients, mostly children, show signs of chronic malnourishment when they arrive at therapeutic clinics run by UNICEF, said aid workers.

The cholera epidemic is most prevalent among women and children. Cholera outbreaks often occur in refugee camps due to overcrowding and poor sanitation. Water scarcity also remains a major problem among the new arrivals in the refugee camps. In recent weeks, aid agencies have started a cholera vaccination campaign across Somalia.

Somalia’s drought is threatening 3 million lives, according to the U.N. In recent months, aid agencies have scaled up their efforts but they said more support is needed to prevent the crisis from worsening.

More aid “is very important if we want to prevent the cholera from going out of control and also to prevent famine. We have to get the funding now to prevent it,” Steven Lauwerier, UNICEF’s representative for Somalia, said.

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