WHO responds to essential health needs in the drought-stricken Horn of Africa
WHO calls for US$ 23.4 million to counter malnutrition and the spread of disease in the Horn of Africa
10 August 2011 ¦ Geneva -- The worst drought in decades in the Horn of Africa is putting the health of 12.4 million people at risk from disease and widespread malnutrition.
Major health priorities include the management of severe acute malnutrition with medical complications, the prevention and control of communicable diseases, the early detection and response to outbreaks such as measles and cholera, and the continuity of basic health services for most vulnerable populations, such as reproductive health needs of pregnant and lactating women. In Somalia alone, an estimated 3.7 million people are at risk of malnutrition in eight regions of the country. Malnutrition increases both the risk for and severity of infectious diseases, and infectious diseases can exacerbate malnutrition. Severe malnutrition, when combined with serious medical complications, becomes an extreme medical emergency that requires intensive care in specialized units (stabilization centres) to avoid high mortality. In the famine areas of southern Somalia, mortality surveys (FEWS-NET) showed under-five death rates are higher than 4/10 000 per day, peaking at more than 13/10 000 per day in Lower Shebelle.
The ongoing conflict in Somalia has led to mass population displacements, as people flee both drought and warfare. Population displacement contributes to the spread of communicable diseases through poor sanitation, lack of water and lack of access to health care.
The World Health Organization (WHO) is working with Ministries of Health and Health Cluster partners to coordinate the response both within the affected countries and across borders. A disease outbreak early warning system has been activated using the WHO polio surveillance network already positioned in the region with about 176 staff in Somalia alone. WHO, UNICEF and the Ministries of Health held a campaign vaccinating 215 000 children against polio and measles along the Kenya-Somali border and in the Dadaab refugee camps. A million more are to be vaccinated.
With its presence in all districts of Somalia including south central regions, WHO has been supporting health facilities and these supply lines will be used to strengthen assistance.
WHO is supporting health authorities by providing essential medicines and supplies to treat 670 000 people for three months. Additional medical supplies sent specifically for treating cholera will cover 2700 serious cases.
WHO has procured medical supplies to treat people for malnutrition and diarrhoea along with common illnesses. Blood transfusion and trauma kits have been included to treat patients needing surgical care. WHO is scaling up the training of health workers and will support the deployment of an additional 300 health workers in drought affected areas to address the increased demand for health care. To limit the spread of diarrhoeal diseases, cholera diagnostic kits and further supplies to test water quality have been delivered to health facilities.
The scale of the emergency indicates that both the number of people affected by this crisis and the support needed will continue to increase. Additional assistance is needed for:
- Strengthening disease surveillance systems in countries and at cross-border posts with an additional 400 disease reporting sites and with refresher training for about 3000 health workers;
- Replenishing essential medicines and medical supplies and supporting the deployment of 356 additional health workers in remote areas;
- Training 300 health workers in the management of severe acute malnutrition with complications to staff 28 stabilization centers in referral hospitals;
- Coordinating health response activities at country and regional level with 15 additional experts deployed in the field and a pool of four experts deployed in Nairobi and in standby in Regional Offices and at headquarters.
Currently, WHO’s emergency health response and the health sector as a whole are severely under-funded with only US$ 6 136 953 (Djibouti 264 290, Ethiopia 697 003, Kenya 576 914, Somalia 4 598 746 and Uganda 0) received by WHO for responding to the health aspects of this crisis. To scale up the response in the drought affected areas, WHO will require an additional US$ 23.4 million.
For more information
Media and Advocacy Officer
Polio, Emergencies and Country Collaboration
World Health Organization
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