Somalia drought death toll reaches 110 as fears of cholera epidemic grow

Fiona Keating
Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed

A severe drought in Somalia has claimed the lives of 110 people who died from hunger in the last 48 hours. Prime Minister Hassan Ali Khayre released the details at a meeting with the Somali National Drought Committee.

The death toll announced by Khayre relates to the Bay region of south-west Somalia alone and is set to rise as the government declared a national disaster on 28 February.

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Over 5 million people in Somalia need aid, with warnings of a full-blown drought, the United Nations said.

Capital city Mogadishu is bearing the brunt of the catastrophe as thousands of people have flocked here to find food. More than 7,000 internally displaced people arrived at just one feeding centre recently.

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The humanitarian crisis is linked to violent conflict, says UN chief António Guterres. The Somalian government warned that the widespread hunger "makes people vulnerable to exploitation, human rights abuses and to criminal and terrorist networks".

There are approximately 363,000 acutely malnourished children who "need urgent treatment and nutrition support, including 71,000 who are severely malnourished", the US Agency for International Development's Famine Early Warning Systems Network said.

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A lack of clean water can lead to other problems such as cholera and other diseases, UN experts said. There are reports of some deaths from cholera already, according to AP.

Mohamed Hassan Fiqi, Minister of Agriculture for south-west state in Somalia, said the cholera situation was out of control and requested emergency aid from the government and international community.

"Cholera broke out in Goof-gaduud, Awdiinle and Berdale locations in Bay region," he said according to Chinese news agency Xinhua. "Children, women and old people are among the dead, the death toll increases time to time and our administration can't help."

The African country is one of four regions, along with northeast Nigeria, South Sudan and Yemen that were named by the UN secretary-general, who announced a $4.4bn (£3.58bn) aid appeal. The UN humanitarian appeal for Somalia in 2017 reached a figure of $864m, but the UN World Food Programme pushed the figure up by asking for an extra $26m to address the problems caused by the drought.

Somalia has been without an effective central government since the toppling of dictator Siad Barre in 1991. In the political chaos that ensued, Islamic group al-Shabab has emerged and gained traction, increasing attacks in Mogadishu. Suicide bombings and attacks on hotels and military targets continue to destabilise the war-ravaged country.

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