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El Niño-Induced Cholera Outbreak claims 60 lives in Somalia, UNICEF reports

The Media Line
Tuesday April 9, 2024

A severe cholera outbreak in Somalia has resulted in at least 60 fatalities over the past three months, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) reported on Sunday. The outbreak has seen a sharp increase in cases, with nearly 5,000 new infections being reported, of which 51% are female.

This ongoing health emergency, which has seen uninterrupted transmission since 2017, is experiencing a significant surge in infections this year, with the number of cases tripling compared to the same period over the last three years, according to the World Health Organization. About 62% of the recent cases have been classified as severe.

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Children under 5 years old represent 59% of the cases, highlighting the risk the outbreak poses to this demographic. Cholera, an acute intestinal infection, can spread rapidly through contaminated food and water sources, often exacerbated by inadequate sanitation.

The recent upsurge in cholera cases is largely attributed to floods caused by El Niño toward the end of 2023, which not only claimed 118 lives but also displaced over 1 million people. These conditions have worsened the outbreak across various regions in Somalia, with significant incidents reported in multiple districts including Mogadishu, Afgoye, and Kismayo.

UNICEF’s report sheds light on the dire situation faced by many in Somalia, with the lack of access to clean water and sanitation facilities being a principal factor driving the outbreak. The aftermath of the 2023 El Niño-induced floods has intensified the cholera crisis.

El Niño is a complex climate phenomenon that occurs irregularly in the Pacific Ocean but has widespread effects on the global weather and climate, including in regions as distant as Somalia. It is characterized by the warming of ocean surface temperatures in the central and eastern Pacific, leading to significant shifts in atmospheric circulation patterns. These changes can disrupt normal weather patterns across much of the globe, including altering rainfall patterns, storms, and droughts in various parts of the world.

In Somalia, a country located in the Horn of Africa, El Niño can have profound impacts, often exacerbating existing vulnerabilities due to its primarily arid climate and dependence on agriculture and livestock for livelihoods. The effects of El Niño in Somalia typically manifest in one of two extreme weather conditions: increased rainfall or prolonged dry periods.



 





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