UNICEF staff confirmed today that 26 people have died of cholera in southern Somalia. They also reported that 320 cases have been confirmed at UNICEF’s cholera treatment centre, set up - in conjunction with a local health committee - in a hospital in Bardere, southern Somalia. “This is something we had been anticipating,” UNICEF Representative Gianfranco Rotigliano said in a press statement received by IRIN. “It was factored into the original Emergency Food Shortage Appeal of November 1998,” he added. Bardere’s population has risen by some 20,000 because of IDPs fleeing drought, hunger and insecurity. At the first cholera alert a week ago, stool samples were immediately sent to the WHO laboratory in Merka for analysis and confirmation. Pre-positioned stocks of cholera kits, chlorine and oral rehydration salts (ORS) were made available at health facilities and back-up supplies were flown into Bardere and two trucks arrived there today with further supplies. UNICEF attributes the outbreak to the cramped, unhealthy conditions at IDP camps and the fact that people had been weakened by hunger and disease. “Cholera has become endemic in Somalia. It strikes every dry season when the cholera vibrio in water sources becomes concentrated,” said UNICEF’s emergency field officer, Roger Carter.
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