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Alarming spike in cholera as famine grips East Africa

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The Disasters Emergency Committee says it is worried by the rapid increase in the number of waterborne diseases as famine begins to grip

The Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC) has warned of an alarming surge in the transmission of waterborne diseases such as cholera across East Africa.

Prolonged drought, conflict and food and water shortages have left 16 million people on the brink of starvation and resulted in a spike in the number of cases of Acute Watery Diarrhoea (AWD) – a key symptom of cholera.

The DEC, which is made up of 13 of the UK’s biggest aid charities, launched its East Africa Crisis Appeal last week and has since raised £26 million to fund work on the ground.

In Somalia alone, the UN recorded almost 12,700 cases of AWD and cholera in the first three months of 2017.

In South Sudan, the World Health Organisation has recorded 5,640 cases. One in five are children under five.

In the severely affected district of Juba, one in three people are dying from the disease.

Women, children and older people are most affected. Those already suffering from malnutrition are particularly susceptible to transmission and are more likely to die.

Cholera is simple to treat but patients must receive medical assistance within the first few hours. DEC member charities are working hard to treat people in desperate need but with resources already stretched to breaking point, they are struggling to meet the growing demand.

Without immediate interventions of lifesaving aid, water and sanitation, the transmission of waterborne diseases will continue to escalate.

In Baidoa Town, Somalia, World Vision is helping to provide immunisation and oral rehydration treatment for AWD cases to newly displaced and malnourished people arriving into town.

Simon Nyabwengi, World Vision’s national director for Somalia, said: “There is an urgent need to scale up support for health interventions in the south-west state, especially in districts that have been hard hit by outbreaks of acute watery diarrhoea. As transmission rates rise we are struggling to meet the need of the people here – we simply need more funding.”

The Red Cross is boosting its efforts to increase the availability of clean water across East Africa, by repairing and installing water points, providing water treatment and promoting good hygiene practices.

Alexander Matheou, director of international programmes and partnerships at the British Red Cross, said: “Cholera is a life-threatening disease that affects people who have little choice but to drink contaminated water.

“No one should die because they don’t have safe water to drink. With more support from the British public we can expand our programmes and reach more people across the region.”

The DEC’s chief executive Saleh Saeed added: “DEC members are working around the clock to get clean water to millions of people in desperate need.

“Here in the UK people up and down the country have shown huge generosity, but the humanitarian needs across East Africa are on such a large scale, we all need to do more. We need your help more than ever to keep supplies flowing and prevent the spread of waterborne diseases.

“Every donation helps – £60 could provide clean drinking water for two families for a month.”

Donations can be made at any high street bank and at Post Office counters or to donate £5 by text send the word SUPPORT to 70000.