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Adequate sanitation: The key to curbing cholera


SOMALIA, March 2008 - On the occasion of International Water Day, UNICEF Representative Christian Balslev-Olesen, took the time to highlight a known truth - suspected cholera outbreaks do not have to occur in Somalia on a periodic basis. The cycle can be broken through proper disposal of human waste, the use of latrines and hand washing with soap.

“This is not new information,” said Balslev-Olesen, “but we do need to highlight its importance because in Somalia every year at this time, we have cases of suspected cholera. What is new so far this year is that the caseload has been much smaller, due in efforts by our partners to help communities dig latrines, organize clean up campaigns, improve hygiene and ensure regular water chlorination.”

In early 2007, UNICEF and key partners contained a major post-flood outbreak of cholera by providing local communities and health centres with 35 cholera kits and over 1.5 million sachets of oral rehydration salts to treat diarrhoea.

What really made the difference; however, were efforts by UNICEF’s partners to provide safe drinking water to over 230,000 people affected by floods, to chlorinate 1,000 wells in the centre-south of the country and to implement a massive hygiene and sanitation promotion campaign that benefited over 180,000 people. And what have sustained these efforts is the continued chlorination of water sources and/or the provision of aqua tabs or chlorine to households where cases are detected.

Where water provision and sanitation is concerned, UNICEF and its partners respond with both short-term and long-term measures. For instance, in areas like Afgoye, that hosts over 240,000 internally displaced people, UNICEF works in tandem with other agencies and NGO partners to truck in over half a million liters of water a day for 100,000 people – a third of all water being trucked in; dig latrines (that have so far benefited 30,000 people) and work on longer term solutions like rehabilitating shallow wells and extending water pipelines.

Across Somalia, UNICEF (with generous funding from the European Commission and the Governments of Denmark, Norway, Netherlands, Sweden, Canada and the United States amongst others) supports local administrations and civil society actors to put in place policies and measures to ensure and sustain future water supply and management, as well as provide technical assistance and funding for the construction of water and sanitation facilities in schools and health centers.

Even the most marginalized have benefited, like Aqilo Hassan who lives in Baidoa, the center-south of Somalia, has benefited.

“I am 27 years old. I have three children – all under the age of four. I come from a clan known for tanning animal skins. Because our work smells, we are not loved, " said Hassan. “When we came to this camp, people held their noses at us; well owners wouldn’t let us use their water and I had to walk five kilometers every day to get water for our work and my family. Now, thanks to UNICEF, we have 14 community latrines and two water points – and for the 247 families that live here, that is the difference between life and death.”

According to the Chief of the Clan, Mohamed Sabaro Hussein it also means less sickness. “Last year and in the years before, we had 70 diarrhea cases a month at this time. This year, we have had none.”


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