Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC) warns of alarming spike in waterborne diseases as famine tightens its grip on East Africa

21/03/2017

The Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC) is today warning of an alarming surge in the transmission of waterborne diseases 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.

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 (WHO) has recorded 5,640 cases. 1 in 5 are children under 5.

In the district of Terekeka, South Sudan, 1 in 3 people with cholera are dying.

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 members 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 said: “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.”

Through its recently launched appeal DEC has already raised £26 million for the East Africa Crisis. The funding will be distributed across all 13 member agencies to roll out various response programmes on the ground.

11 of the 13 DEC member charities have indicated that they plan to use DEC funding to roll out WASH programmes across East Africa.

 

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Notes to editors:

  • Media enquiries please call 020 7387 0200 or 07930 999 014 (out of hours).
  • The DEC brings 13 leading UK aid charities together in times of crisis: ActionAid, Age International, British Red Cross, CAFOD, CARE International, Christian Aid, Concern Worldwide, Islamic Relief, Oxfam, Plan International UK, Save the Children, Tearfund and World Vision; all collectively raising money to reach those in need quickly.
  • Matt Baker, Brenda Blethyn, Tamsin Greig, Bill Nighy and Eddie Redmayne have backed the DEC’s East Africa Crisis Appeal by recording calls for support from the public.
  • The UK Government is matching pound for pound the first £10 million donated by the public to the DEC East Africa Crisis Appeal through its Aid Match Fund.
  • Donations can be made at any high street bank and at Post Office counters. To make a postal donation make cheques payable to ‘DEC’ and mail to ‘PO Box 999, London, EC3A 3AA’. 
  • To donate £5 by text send the word SUPPORT to 70000. The full £5 will go to the DEC East Africa Crisis Appeal. Donors must be 16 years or over and have bill payers’ permission. Texts are free and donations will be added to the bill.
  • UNOCHA figures are reported from The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.
  • DEC will be hosting Facebook live sessions during the week, featuring aid workers and journalists who will be discussing their experiences from recent visit to East Africa.