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Somalia heading for cycle of hunger and disease, says WHO

Action needed to prevent ‘humanitarian catastrophe’

Jo Carlowe

Friday, 12 May 2017

The World Health Organization is calling for immediate action to save lives in Somalia.

WHO is concerned by the chronic shortage of funding for life-saving work in Somalia in response to the ongoing drought that has plunged the country further towards famine, disease, and health insecurity. 

Drought in Somalia has led to the destruction of crops and livestock, leaving more than 3.3 million people hungry every day. 

If the current situation continues, WHO warns famine could soon be a reality, creating a devastating cycle of hunger and disease as the health of people deteriorates and they become more susceptible to infection. 

Drought has also led to lack of clean water and the largest outbreak of cholera Somalia has seen in the last five years, with more than 36,000 cases and almost 690 deaths so far in 2017 alone. With the beginning of the expected rainy season and floods this month, these numbers are expected to increase to 50,000 cases by the end of June. Cases of measles are also on the rise, with nearly 6,500 cases reported this year, 71% of them children under the age of five years.

"History has shown the terrible consequences of inaction, or action that comes too late. More than a quarter of a million lives – half of them children – were lost as a result of the devastating famine of 2011. This year, a much larger percentage of the population is now at risk. We will not stand by and watch millions of already vulnerable men, women, and children become victims of an avoidable catastrophe," said Dr Peter Salama, WHO executive director for emergencies.

WHO has commended the government of the United Kingdom for its leadership in hosting the Somalia Conference — an international conference — held yesterday, in London, to tackle the country’s most urgent challenges.

WHO is calling on the international community to take decisive action to help avoid a humanitarian catastrophe. 

So far in 2017, health sector requirements of US$ 103 million are only 23% funded and WHO has received less than 10% of US$ 25 million required for an organisational response. 

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