Measles threatens thousands of children in Somalia: UN

Thousands of children in war-torn Somalia are facing death or disability due to an outbreak of highly contagious measles, the United Nations said Tuesday.

Recent rates of infection are four times higher than the same time last year, and a must be "urgently conducted to prevent thousands of ", the UN children's agency UNICEF and the World Health Organization (WHO) warned in a joint statement.

The outbreak comes amid renewed warnings impoverished Somalia risks sliding back into acute crisis less than three years since a devastating famine, amid poor rains, escalating conflict and aid funding shortfalls.

"We have a very high number of malnourished Somali children," UNICEF chief for Somalia Sikander Khan said.

"Malnourished children here are more susceptible to disease, and are more likely to die or suffer life long disability such as blindness, deafness or brain damage as a result of contracting measles."

WHO head for Somalia, Ghulam Popal, said the outbreak was "extremely alarming", warning that 10 percent of children infected could die from complications.

Around half a million children have been vaccinated in recent months, but the UN says some five million in total need protection.

In some parts of Somalia—notably southern and central regions including areas where African Union troops are battling Al-Qaeda linked Shebab insurgents—immunisation rates are as low as 15 percent.

Less than a third of children aged under a year were vaccinated countrywide in 2013.

Somalia was the hardest hit by extreme drought in 2011 that affected over 13 million people across the Horn of Africa, with famine zones declared in large parts of the war-ravaged south.

One in five children dies before their fifth birthday with measles one of the main causes, according to the UN.

The measles campaign would cost some nine million dollars (6.6 million euros), but aid agencies are already struggling to raise the funds needed for other emergencies in the country.

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Vietnam battles fatal measles outbreak

Apr 18, 2014

Vietnam is scrambling to contain a deadly outbreak of measles that has killed more than 100 people, mostly young children, and infected thousands more this year, the government said Friday.

Recommended for you

Mali announces new Ebola case

9 hours ago

Mali announced Saturday a new case of Ebola in a man who is fighting for his life in an intensive care unit in the capital Bamako.

Plague outbreak kills 40 in Madagascar: WHO

9 hours ago

An outbreak of plague has killed 40 people in Madagascar, the World Health Organization said, warning that the disease could spread rapidly in the country's densely populated capital Antananarivo.

UN chief: Ebola cases in Mali a 'deep concern'

22 hours ago

The United Nations chief warned Friday that Ebola may be easing in part of West Africa but is still hitting hard in other areas and outpacing the international response.

User comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.