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Cholera outbreak hits Somalia

Sunday, March 13, 2011

MOGADISHU, Somalia -- A growing cholera outbreak in Somalia's war-ravaged capital has killed more than 20 people and infected more than 2,000, a doctor said Saturday.

Dr. Lul Mohamed said that Banadir Maternity Hospital has seen more than 2,000 cholera patients since the beginning of February and the disease is rapidly spreading. In the past 48 hours, she said, the hospital has received 180 people affected by the highly contagious disease whose symptoms include dehydration, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea.

She said that the hospital is running low on supplies and cash to pay health workers but volunteers are helping care for the sick.

Mohamed said many of patients are children from camps for displaced families, some of whom fled after weeks of a government-led offensive against insurgents.

"Infants are the worst hit by the disease," she said.

Mohamed said that she believed most cholera victims were coming to Banadir Hospital because many of the other hospitals and clinics were filled with people wounded in recent clashes.

Deputy health minister Osman Liban said he was not aware of the outbreak but would investigate.

Somalia has not had a functioning government for more than 20 years. The arid Horn of Africa nation is currently suffering from a drought and there are few sources of clean water. Cholera is a waterborne infection that is easily preventable with clean water and sanitation.

Islamist insurgents have also banned aid agencies from operating in the swaths of southern and central Somalia they control.


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