NY Travel Clinic

Somalia to Start Vaccine Program Against Cholera

The problems in Somalia never seem to end. Apart from wars and violence, the country has been beset with famine and outbreaks of several infectious disorders. This time, Somalia is faced with a severe outbreak of cholera and the government has initiated a campaign to vaccinate nearly half a million people.

Somalia, located in the Horn of Africa, has suffered decades of war and a very weak central government with almost no authority. Continual tribal warfare and terrorist activities by its younger population have decimated the country. In addition, the terrorist group, Al Shabab, has joined with some factions of Al Qaeda and has regularly harassed neighbouring countries.

There are almost no medical and healthcare facilities to speak of in Somalia. Healthcare workers are scarce and medical supplies are impossible to find. Even when medical supplies are available, the prices are astronomical and the average Somali, who has no money for food, is unlikely to be able to afford any healthcare.

When medical supplies are donated to the country, they are often seized by the warlords. Today most western nations are weary of helping Somalia because the government has done nothing to curb terrorism and corruption. The lack of food and the constant infighting has resulted in the world’s largest refugee camp located in Dadaab, Kenya. At last count, there were nearly 260,000 Somalis living in these camps, but the numbers are grossly underestimated.

Today, there are over 3 million Somalis on the brink of starvation caused by a long drought. Just a few weeks ago, the United Nations collected $300 million in aid to help the region.

To make matter worse, the country has been beset by an epidemic of cholera which has been spreading rapidly. People already weakened by starvation and malnutrition are often the first ones to be infected. Because of lack of sanitation and fresh water, people have been consuming dirty contaminated water from water puddles, which is often contaminated with feces and urine. The World Health Organization has deployed nearly 900,000 doses of cholera vaccine but it may not be enough.

In 2015, Somalia had over 15,000 cases of cholera with 548 deaths but this year, the number of cholera cases has already reached 13,000 and 333 deaths. The ideal treatment for cholera is rehydration and antibiotics but Somalia not only lacks fresh water but also suffers from a serious lack of adequate medical facilities. No outside healthcare staff wants to go to Somalia for fear of being kidnapped by the warlords or other terrorist groups. Medical experts are hoping that perhaps vaccination can slow down the recent cholera outbreak.