Measles Outbreak Threatens Somali Refugees

Measles Outbreak Threatens Somali Refugees

Somali refugees, already in the grapples of famine, are also now confronting a measles outbreak occurring in Ethiopian camps, the United Nations warned this weekend.

Published August 8, 2011

Somali refugees, already in the grapples of famine, are also now confronting a measles outbreak occurring in Ethiopian camps, the United Nations warned this weekend.

 

Last week, there were 47 diagnosed cases and three deaths at the Kobe camp in Dollo Ado, which is home to 25,000 refugees. And the situation is set to get worse.

 

“This situation is alarming and we cannot afford to wait,” Moses Okello, UNHCR’s Representative in Ethiopia said after a visit to the region. “We must act now, urgently and decisively, to arrest and turn around this situation.” He added that he was “shaken” by the situation.

 

In addition, agency officials are particularly concerned since the refugees, many of whom fled their homes due to famine, are already in poor health.

 

“The mix of measles and high levels of malnutrition can be fatal,” said the UN agency in a release.

 

Reasons behind the surge include low vaccination levels in Somalia, camp overcrowding and malnutrition, experts said, according to the release.

 

In response to the epidemic, Okello called for a mass vaccination campaign targeting children between six months and 15 years old, which is set to start Aug. 9 in Kobe, the hardest hit camp.

 

The vaccination effort will be supported by the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the World Health Organization (WHO) and Ethiopia’s Ministry of Health.

 

(Photo: Antonie De Ras/Landov)

Written by Hortense M. Barber

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