The original version of this article, by Jan Eliasson, appeared on
The confirmation of cholera deaths in Somalia offers a chilling reminder of what happens when there is no safe water and inadequate sanitation. The refugee crisis in Somalia is fueled by the worst drought in the horn of Africa in over 60 years.
This humanitarian disaster is a glaring example of the international community’s failure to uphold basic needs and rights of some of our planet’s most vulnerable people. As we struggle to respond to this humanitarian catastrophe, we must remember that Somalis are in need of more than access to food, but also safe water, sanitation, shelter, and healthcare.
For many of Somalia’s poorest citizens, who have walked for days and miles, drinking contaminated water, and staying in crowded camps, deadly diseases including cholera may be a tragic but predictable end result. Up to 100,000 people have crowded into Mogadishu, seeking shelter, food, and water. More arrive each day in Mogadishu and in overflowing camps in neighboring Kenya.
Experts estimate that more than 29,000 children under the age of five have already died from the combination of drought, famine, and illness. Diarrhea is on the rise in overcrowded shelters where there is a shortage of safe water and large numbers of weak and malnourished children. These conditions provide a breeding ground for infectious diseases, including measles, cholera and pneumonia. On August 18th, Tarik Jasarevic, a spokesperson for the World Health Organization, said, “We don’t see the end of it.”
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Sources: AP, The New York Times, UN.
Image Credit: “The Horn of Africa food security crisis in numbers,” courtesy of the Famine Early Warning Systems Network (FEWS NET) and USAID.