Cholera epidemic spreading through Somalia

A cholera epidemic is spreading throughout Somalia as thousands flee famine hit areas for crowded refugee camps.

At a single hospital in Mogadishu, the World Health Organization reports that 181 people died from suspected cases of the waterborne illness. Several other outbreaks have been confirmed throughout the country, according to the New York Times.

“We don’t see the end of it,” Tarik Jasarevic, a spokesman for the WHO, said, the New York Times reports. “As long as we have people on the move, in crowded places and using contaminated water, we will see a rise in cases. All the causes are still there.”

One of the worst draughts to hit the region in 60 years, combined with decades of conflict, has left Somalia in the grip of famine and vulnerable to major epidemics. The transitional government has little control beyond the capital, and much of the countryside is dominated by Islamist militants, the Shabab, who have ejected many Western aid organizations.

As a result, United Nations agencies and privately funded aid groups are struggling to respond to the potential catastrophe, the New York Times reports. Over 100,000 people are thought to have fled famine stricken areas and relocated to makeshift camps in Mogadishu. The camps have become a breeding ground for pathogens like measles and cholera.

Unless more emergency food and trained medical personnel can reach famine areas soon, many more are expected to succumb. The U.S. government has estimated that at least 29,000 Somalia children have died as a result of the famine.