Somalia: MSF concludes cholera intervention in Balcad, Middle Shabelle

Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) medical teams in Middle Shabelle have responded to a cholera outbreak detected in the region late March. The confirmation of the first cholera case prompted the humanitarian organisation to open a Cholera Treatment Centre (CTC) in Balcad (Middle Shabelle) on March 28th, which has admitted a total of 77 patients. Two infants died initially due to late arrival at the MSF health facility; the other 75 patients were successfully cured. The majority of affected patients were children under five years old. In addition to treating patients, MSF teams also carried out chlorination of the water sources, and distributed water purifying tablets to the affected communities.

In the absence of new cases in the last two weeks, the CTC is set to close down on May 20th. MSF teams will however keep on monitoring the situation in the villages surrounding Balcad, while informing the population on how to prevent the spread of the disease.

Cholera is endemic in the region, and cases occur almost on a yearly basis. The bacteria that transmits cholera, called the vibrio cholerae, develops and spreads essentially in water sources and through humans. Last year already, MSF teams set-up a CTC in Balcad and admitted some 150 patients. Dehydration is the most common cause of death amongst cholera patients, and it is therefore essential that patients with watery diarrhoea to visit the closest health facility. The broad diffusion of preventive messages - such as the drinking of safe boiled water, regular hand washing with soap, and use of latrines - helps to control the expansion of the disease, as does the chlorination of infected water sources and reservoirs. Children are most at risk, and up to 50% of patients risk dying if they are not given appropriate medical care in due time.

MSF responded to the cholera outbreak in Middle Shabelle as an emergency. The medical organisation will not step up its activities or open up new projects in the country until its two colleagues - Montserrat SERRA and Blanca THIEBAUT - abducted in Dadaab and held in Somalia since October 2011, are reunited with their families.