At least 23 people have died of cholera in two weeks in eastern Ethiopia, which has been hit by heavy flooding, the NGO Save the Children said on Thursday, fearing that the epidemic could get "out of control" in the region.
Cholera is an acute diarrheal infection caused by eating or drinking food or water contaminated with the bacterium vibrio cholera.
Three-quarters of those infected show no symptoms. However, the disease can be dreadful in 10 to 20% of cases, with severe diarrhea and vomiting leading to accelerated dehydration.
In the rain-affected region of Somalia, in eastern Ethiopia, 772 cases of cholera "have been confirmed and 23 deaths from this deadly disease recorded in just two weeks", said Save the Children in a statement, pointing out that over 80% of cases concern children under 5.
While no cases had been recorded since mid-September, "a deadly combination of flooded water supply systems, lack of basic sanitation services and damaged water treatment plants has led to an increase in this disease", continued the NGO.
The cholera epidemic, in Ethiopia but also in the Horn of Africa, "could spiral out of control if swift action is not taken by the government and donors to provide clean water and sanitation to communities forced to leave their homes" because of the floods, warned Save the Children.
At least 57 people have been killed in flooding caused by torrential rains in Ethiopia, according to the UN agency responsible for humanitarian coordination (Ocha), and more than 600,000 others have been displaced, mainly in the south of the country.
More than 100 people were also killed in Somalia and 120 in Kenya as a result of bad weather linked to the El Nino climatic phenomenon.