14 October 2011
NAIROBI, Kenya, 14 October, 2011: An estimated two and a half million people in Somalia, already suffering from drought, famine and conflict, are at risk of contracting malaria with the start of the rainy season. To prevent a malaria epidemic and deaths, especially among malnourished young children and internally displaced populations, a massive response is underway. UNICEF, WHO and partners are scaling up the response to a potential malaria outbreak with funding from the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria and the UK Department for International Development.
"The health of many Somalis is already extremely compromised due to the drought and famine, especially children suffering from malnutrition. With the rains, comes an increased risk of malaria," said Sikander Khan, UNICEF Somalia Representative. "We must act as swiftly as possible to prevent deaths due to this deadly disease. We are working with our partners on prevention as well as providing treatment services as necessary."
To protect children and their families from contracting malaria, 280,000 long-lasting insecticide treated nets (LLINs) will be distributed in the next few weeks to more than 140,000 households in the drought affected regions of Hiran, Lower and Middle Shabelles and Lower and Middle Jubas in South Central Somalia, targeting people living in the most high risk areas. This is in addition to the 79,000 nets which have already been distributed since July.
In the overcrowded informal settlements of Mogadishu, where nets are not practical, a first round of indoor spraying that aims to reach 45,000 households will take place over the next month. This will protect households from transmission for three to four months and will be followed by a second round of spraying in March and April next year. In addition, partners are conducting campaigns to educate families about how malaria is transmitted, how to prevent getting malaria and where to seek care if someone contracts the disease.
As part of equipping health facilities with the capacity to diagnose and treat cases, 560,000 doses of effective anti-malaria drugs known as Artemisinin-based Combination Therapies (ACTs) and one million rapid diagnostic tests will be provided to health facilities, community level health posts and additional service delivery points established by partners.
"With these investments in prevention and treatment, and by encouraging people to seek treatment quickly, we can avoid the tragic impact malaria has on people's lives." said Professor Michel Kazatchkine, Executive Director of the Global Fund.
More than 950,000 nets have been distributed in Somalia with funding from the Global Fund since 2002. The number of malaria cases in Somalia has decreased dramatically during recent years, from an estimated 1.73 million cases in 2005 to approximately 740,000 cases in 2009 - a 57 per cent drop.
The UK Department for International Development is also supporting this large-scale emergency response to malaria amidst the on-going drought and famine in Somalia to ensure adequate supplies of commodities to fight the disease.