SOMALIA: New taskforce to check AWD in Somaliland
In a statement on 31 March, Health Minister Ahmed Hassan Ali said members of the taskforce had been drawn from the ministries of health, water and minerals, and interior, and from the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF), the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Somaliland Red Crescent Society.
Meanwhile, officials in Sayla district, 45km southwest of the capital, Hargeisa, said at least eight children had contracted the disease daily since 26 March.
"Three children have died in Sayla in the past 72 hours," Abdirahman Sheikh Hussein, the mayor of Sayla, told IRIN on 31 March.
Sayla residents complained of inadequate medicine to cope with the outbreak.
"We do not have any idea [how to deal with] the disease, so we put acacia dye, gypsum calcium as well as diesel in the water," Aw Khadar Hassan Ahmed, 72, a resident of Sayla, said.
Ahmed added: "We have limited medicine in the area yet the disease is jumping from place to place; for example while I was in Laf-lamood [about 1km southwest of Sayla], three children died of the disease and several other children in Bargal had been infected."
Mohamed Ahmed Hussein, the public health officer in Sayla, said the disease was spreading fast due to the movement of people. "Some children are getting infected following visits by relatives coming from seeing other [AWD] patients."
Hussein said many people were drinking water fetched from shallow dams, known as "barkads", which were contaminated.
"Yes the colour of water in some of the barkads has changed and we used to drink it as usual without any problem, but late last month, the seasonal river of Wajale burst its banks and some of the water has entered the barkads and I think this has led to the recent diarrhoea in the area," Hussein said.
Health officials in many regions across Somaliland were reported to be struggling to control the spread of the disease.
"We have been struggling to control the virus that causes diarrhoea in the remote areas of Gabiley, Hargeisa and Awdal regions; we have controlled the spread of the disease in Toon [20km south of the capital, Hargeisa], which so far has the highest death toll, six children dead and 85 others infected," Ali Sheikh Omar, the public health director in the Ministry of Health and Labour, told IRIN.
The disease outbreak follows heavy rains, health officials said. AWD is endemic in Somalia, according to WHO. Poor sanitation and lack of clean and safe drinking water are among the key causes.
"It is too early to say it is cholera because we are yet to identify the virus that causes such diarrhoea," Omar said.
According to WHO, a case of cholera is confirmed when "Vibrio cholera O1 or O139" is isolated from any patient with diarrhoea.
Omar said of those infected in Toon, only six children were still in the local hospital, adding that mobile health teams had since been sent to most regions.
"The most seriously affected place was Wajale, where not only children caught the disease but even adults have reported having diarrhoea; more than 240 people - both children and adults - have been infected and three children have died of the disease in Wajale," Omar said.
Health officials expressed concern that the disease could continue to spread.
Omar said: "The disease broke out just as the people were emerging from the worst drought they ever encountered in a long time; when the rains started everyone [collected] rainwater as there had been a severe water shortage. We suspect that the disease broke out after people drank contaminated rainwater [that had been stored].
"The good news is the [health] ministry has controlled the outbreak in Toon and, working in collaboration with UNICEF and the Red Crescent, we have sent several mobile teams to Wajale."
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