Cholera outbreak in Somaliland, up to 70,000 at risk

Over 600 cases of cholera, including eight cholera-related deaths, have been reported in the Togdheer region of Somaliland in the past two weeks. Save the Children is working quickly with the Ministry of Health and other agencies to help contain the outbreak aiming to keep death rates under 1%.

Save the Children's Emergency Health Adviser, Elizabeth Berryman, said: "Cholera is spreading fast leaving up to 70,000 people are at risk. Cholera spreads very quickly and can cause rapid, severe dehydration which is very difficult to control. Children are particularly vulnerable to dehydration and severe cases of cholera are difficult to treat in children. Early treatment, surveillance and prevention are crucial".

"If health systems in Africa were properly resourced with doctors, nurses and a network of community health workers, and the correct drugs stocked, cholera outbreaks would not escalate as fast as they have done here. Access to healthcare has to be improved and fast if we're to stop hundreds dying for diseases and infections that are easy to cure"

Cholera is spread by contaminated food and water. During an epidemic, 80-90% of patients can be treated by oral rehydration, but patients who become severely dehydrated must be given fluids intravenously, up to six litres if they are to survive.

Somaliland has been devastated in recent years by drought, floods and local conflict. It has poor health infrastructure and sanitation and is often neglected by international agencies and donors.

Save the Children has been running health programmes in Togdheer region for the last 7 years. In response to the cholera outbreak it is working with the Ministry of Health and other agencies to:

- Support primary health care centers throughout the district with fluids and ors.

- To set up additional rehydration centers in key affected areas where patients can be treated with oral rehydration salts

- To support the provision of one key isolation centre for the management of severe cases.

- Provide chlorine to clean contaminated water sources, such as shallow wells, and pre-position other essential supplies chlorine tablets and ORS at household level. To support the public health surveillance system to ensure cases are tracked correctly.

- To train doctors and nurses to make sure that they can recognize, report and treat cholera

- Work with communities to raise awareness of important public health measures, such as hand-washing, the boiling of drinking water, and basic food hygiene.

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