Somalia: Outbreak of acute watery diarrhea in Kismayo

MSF is responding to increased cases of acute watery diarrhoea among children and adults in the southern-Somali city of Kismayo. We are admitting more patients every day. Kismayo is densely populated so there is risk that the disease will spread further within the community.

A rapid test among a sample of ten patients indicated that 6 cases tested positive for cholera. Out of the 65 patients treated so far, 40 suffered severe dehydration and needed immediate hospitalisation. The majority of the cases were children under the age of 8.

Acute watery diarrhoea is highly infectious, and can be deadly if not treated in time. It can easily lead to a widespread outbreak, if urgent prevention measures are not taken.

The most effective way to prevent such outbreaks is chlorination of water sources used for drinking water, and to adhere to basic hygienic measures. In this area, however, using chlorine is not allowed. MSF community health workers are, therefore, advising communities to sieve water with clean cotton fabric and boil it before drinking it, as well as to regularly wash their hands with soap.

A temporary cholera treatment centre has been set up in one of MSF’s existing facilities in Kismayo, but the 20-bed-capacity of this ward is already overloaded by the 36 patients currently under treatment, and a larger facility is needed to treat the increasing number of cases

Two MSF staff members were abducted in Dadaab, Kenya in October last year, and it is believed they are being held in Somalia. Until this situation is resolved, expansion of MSF activities in Somalia is limited to emergencies only, such as this one in Kismayo.

Although MSF is extremely worried about our abducted colleagues, who have now been held for over 9 months, we cannot steer away from our medical and humanitarian responsibilities, to treat patients in an emergency situation.

We appeal to all Somalis who can help to take responsibility and do everything in their power to ensure the safe release of our abducted MSF staff members.

MSF has been running in-patient and ambulatory therapeutic feeding centres for severely malnourished children and treating measles cases in Kismayo since December 2011.

MSF is currently running projects in 22 locations in Somalia. Many areas in the country continue to suffer from serious humanitarian crises, characterised by widespread displacement, malnutrition, outbreaks of diseases and lack of access to humanitarian aid due to continuing insecurity. MSF also assists hundreds of thousands Somali refugees in refugee camps just across the border in Ethiopia and Kenya.