While the cholera epidemic rages in Yemen with more than 32,000 cases reported since the beginning of the month, across the Gulf of Aden, the two largest countries on the Horn of Africa are also battling increases in the gastrointestinal bacterial infection.

Horn of Africa Image/Public domain image/ Lexicon at the English Wikipedia project
Horn of Africa
Image/Public domain image/ Lexicon at the English Wikipedia project

In Somalia during the first four months of the year, 36,066 suspected cholera cases, including 697 deaths (CFR: 1.9%). The areas most heavily affected include Bay, Bakol and Lower Shabelle, Middle Juba and Gedo, all in the south.

This compares to 15,619 suspected cholera cases including 531 deaths in all of 2016.

In neighboring Ethiopia since the beginning of the year, a total of 33,145 acute watery diarrhea (AWD) cases and 776 deaths (CFR 2.3%) have been reported in the country from six regions of Somali, Oromia, Amhara, Afar, SNNP and Tigray. Ninety-one percent (91%) of these cases and 99% of the deaths were reported in Somali Region.

Fortunately, the World Health Organization (WHO) says the outbreak situation in Somali region has greatly improved following the upgrading of the event and subsequent scaling up of response interventions. Access to safe water has increased to large populations including provisions of other essential health care services.

Because of the ongoing humanitarian crisis in the Horn of Africa- Gulf of Aden region, resulting in disruptions in water supplies and sanitation, and in the displacement of populations to overcrowded camps, the number of cholera cases detected each week may remain high or even increase, the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) states.

Cholera is an acute diarrheal infection caused by ingestion of food or water contaminated with the bacterium Vibrio cholerae. Most of those infected will have no or mild symptoms but, in severe cases, the disease can kill within hours if left untreated.