Halting the spread of cholera in Somalia

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The Vaccine Alliance is supporting one of the largest cholera vaccination campaigns ever conducted in Africa. Targeting over 450,000 people, the oral cholera vaccine campaign aims to counter a potential nationwide epidemic fuelled by severe drought and lack of access to clean water and sanitation.

15 March 2017

Somalia cholera campaign 2017 (1)
Gavi/2017/Karel Prinsloo

The extreme drought in Somalia has forced millions of people to drink dirty water as the wells dry up. This has caused one of the biggest cholera outbreaks in years, with over 12,000 cases and more than 200 deaths. Young children, like six month old Mohamed Hassan Mohamed (pictured), are particularly vulnerable.

Somalia cholera campaign 2017 (2)
Gavi/2017/Karel Prinsloo

Ali Hassan Mohamed Hassan, 38, who lost his leg years ago in a roadside bomb, walked for three weeks from his village to Somalia’s capital Mogadishu after all his livestock died in the drought. His six month old son Mohamed contracted cholera during the journey and is now receiving emergency treatment in Banadir hospital, Mogadishu.

Somalia cholera campaign 2017 (3)
Gavi/2017/Karel Prinsloo

Ahead Isaak Mohamed has already lost two children to cholera in the past month. Now both her remaining children, Ali (4) and Awligo (1) have contracted the disease and are fighting for their lives in a cholera treatment centre in Mogadishu. The family lost all their livestock in the drought so they moved from Baidoa to a camp for internally displaced people in Mogadishu.

Somalia cholera campaign 2017 (4)
Gavi/2017/Karel Prinsloo

Yasmin Hussein Yusuf (4), who contracted cholera after drinking from a dirty borehole, is carried by a relative into a cholera treatment centre in Mogadishu. Cholera is an extremely contagious diarrhoeal disease that can kill within hours if left untreated. It is spread by waterborne bacteria which can be carried in faeces.

Somalia cholera campaign 2017 (5)
Gavi/2017/Karel Prinsloo

To stop the cholera outbreak becoming a nationwide epidemic, Gavi, working with the World Health Organization (WHO) and UNICEF, is supporting one of the largest cholera vaccination campaigns ever conducted in Africa. The campaign aims to protect over 450,000 people against the disease, including children at this Mogadishu clinic.

Somalia cholera campaign 2017 (6)
Gavi/2017/Karel Prinsloo

The oral cholera vaccine is taken in two doses a month apart, and offers protection against the disease for most people. Gavi has shipped nearly a million doses to support the campaign.

Somalia cholera campaign 2017 (7)
Gavi/2017/Karel Prinsloo

The vaccines will play a vital role in containing the spread of cholera, but the only way to stop it for good is to ensure the Somalian people have access to clean water, good hygiene and working toilets. UNICEF, the International Federation of the Red Cross and other NGOs are working across East Africa to provide water and sanitation, helping to stop the spread of waterborne diseases.

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