A simultaneous outbreak of cholera and measles is posing a deadly threat in Ethiopia, East Africa, especially for children who have been suffering from malnutrition.
According to Save The Children International (SCI), over 3oo cases of cholera were recorded in January with the disease affecting Oromia community in Ethiopia and some regions of Somalia.
In the last week of January, the Ethiopian Public Health Institute also noted a spike in measles cases with 357 new cases and 6 deaths reported.
The health authorities stated that the troubling lack of water points due to severe droughts, coupled with the poor water and sanitation hygiene, and open defecation practices is worsening the situation.
In a press statement, SCI said: “it’s clear that the current drought is contributing to these disease outbreaks and we are worried this is going to have severe consequences for children already battling malnutrition.”
Children bear the burden of drought
According to a World Food Programme (WFP) report, Ethiopia has been experiencing the “most severe drought in recent history,” adding that the crisis is affecting the lives and income of people across the country.
After the failure of the fifth consecutive rainfall in the Horn of Africa, it is estimated that almost 12 million people are now facing severe levels of food insecurity in Ethiopia alone. “An increase of 59 per cent compared to early 2022. 3.8 million women and children in these areas need support to prevent and treat malnutrition,” the WFP noted.
Currently the SCI is supporting the health centre in Kelafo town that has already admitted 18 children with severe acute malnutrition.
Besides disease outbreaks, children in Ethiopia are experiencing other devastating outcomes as families try to cope with the severe drought. In July, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) revealed that parents and guardians are marrying off their underage daughters to secure dowries.
The UN organisation noted that in some parts of Ethiopia that has been worst-hit, child marriages have more than doubled in one year, stating that this survival trend was adopted to allow families to have one less mouth to feed or an attempt to help the bride enter a better-off household.
The situation is likely to get worse as the country enters the January-March dry season, SCI predicts. Weather forecasts project that rainfalls in the upcoming rainy season in April will be below average.
“We are calling for more funds to provide food, water and health services to affected communities.”
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