Measles threatens thousands of children in Somalia: UN

June 10, 2014

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.

Explore further: Pakistan child measles deaths surge in 2012

Related Stories

Vietnam battles fatal measles outbreak

April 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

In sub-Saharan Africa, cancer can be an infectious disease

August 26, 2016

In 1963, Irish surgeon Denis Parson Burkitt airmailed samples of an unusual jaw tumor found in Ugandan children to his colleague, Anthony Epstein, at Middlesex Hospital in London. Epstein, an expert in chicken viruses and ...

Zika virus may persist in the vagina days after infection

August 25, 2016

The Zika virus reproduces in the vaginal tissue of pregnant mice several days after infection, according to a study by Yale researchers. From the genitals, the virus spreads and infects the fetal brain, impairing fetal development. ...

Team discovers how Zika virus causes fetal brain damage

August 24, 2016

Infection by the Zika virus diverts a key protein necessary for neural cell division in the developing human fetus, thereby causing the birth defect microcephaly, a team of Yale scientists reported Aug. 24 in the journal ...

0 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.