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Disease outbreaks, looting hampering relief efforts in Somalia famine

August 17, 2011

news-medical

“Outbreaks of measles and cholera are striking down Somali children already weakened by hunger, resulting in dozens of new fatalities,” the Guardian reports (Rice, 8/13). According to the WHO, “181 people have died from suspected cholera cases in a single hospital in Mogadishu, and there have been several other confirmed cholera outbreaks across the country,” the New York Times writes (Gettleman, 8/12). UNICEF spokesperson Marixie Mercado “said Friday that tens of thousands of children have died and countless more are particularly at risk of cholera and other diseases because of drought and violence in East Africa,” the Associated Press/NPR notes (8/12).

The World Food Programme (WFP) “said Saturday that it is expanding its food distribution efforts in famine-struck Somalia, where the U.N. estimates that only 20 percent of people needing aid are getting it,” the Associated Press reports. According to the news agency, aid agencies in Mogadishu are battling food aid looting by providing hot meals to refugees, which requires daily waits in long lines. Valerie Amos, the U.N. under-secretary-general for humanitarian affairs, said the deployment of more police and military “might be able to help secure areas, but [she] said they were currently over-stretched securing areas of the city vacated by” the Islamist militant group al-Shabab (Houreld, 8/13).

“A $2.4 billion U.N. appeal for the Horn of Africa is only about half-funded, spokeswoman Elisabeth Byrs of the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs [OCHA] said,” according to Reuters (Nebehay, 8/12). “News agency reports reaching Somalia say the big push is on in world capitals to gather the cash and the supplies of food and other life-saving materials for Somalia as fast as possible. A consortium of doctors and health professionals from Arab countries is due to arrive within days, and the head of the U.N. disaster relief organization OCHA is making an emergency visit to Mogadishu,” VOA News reports (Heinlein, 8/12).

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