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ETHIOPIA: At Least 23 Killed as a New Cholera Outbreak Poses Deadly Threat to Thousands of Displaced Children

ADDIS ABABA (Nov. 30, 2023)– A new cholera outbreak in Ethiopia’s Somali region is exacerbating suffering for thousands of children and families recently displaced by floods, with 772[1] confirmed cases and 23 deaths from the deadly disease recorded in just two weeks, Save the Children said.

In the worst hit district of Kelafo in the Somali region, Save the Children teams are reporting a huge spike in cholera cases among children under five, who account for nearly 80% of the confirmed cases.

For the better part of this year, when the impacted region was engulfed by drought, cases of the waterborne disease were on the decline, with the Somali region reporting zero cases of cholera for 11 straight weeks until mid-September, when the rains started.  Now, a deadly combination of flooded water systems, a lack of basic sanitation services, and damaged water treatment plants has driven the spike in the deadly illness.

At least 91 districts across Ethiopia are reporting cases of cholera, with the situation expected to worsen as rains continue to fall in the Gambella, Afar, and Somali regions. Heavy downpours since October have led to flooding, landslides, and massive displacement across the country, killing at least 43 people—including at least eight children—and displacing nearly 400,000 people from their homes.[2]

Save the Children is warning the cholera outbreak in Ethiopia and across the Horn of Africa could spiral out of control if swift action isn’t taken by government and donors to provide clean drinking water and sanitation facilities for communities forced out of their homes by floodwaters.

Save the Children’s Country Director for Ethiopia, Xavier Joubert, said:

"Devastating floods have left sanitation and hygiene conditions in shambles, with toilets and latrines destroyed, forcing communities, especially recently displaced families, into open defecation. The cholera outbreak is alarming, compounded by the use of unsafe floodwaters contaminated by waste from ruined latrines.

“Just months ago, drought and lack of water claimed lives; now, floodwaters are doing the same. This stresses the urgent need for climate change adaptation and resilience investments in Ethiopia. We urgently appeal for government and donor support to provide clean water and sanitation facilities, averting a potential cholera crisis in the Somali region, and Ethiopia at large.”

Save the Children is utilizing prepositioned items and humanitarian relief materials in Ethiopia and is providing cash assistance and distributing household items to displaced people—including medical supplies, drugs, and cholera kits. We are also working with the government, local partners, and communities, to implement pilot anticipatory and early action activities to reduce the negative impacts of flooding in the Shaballe zone of the Somali region. For hard-to-reach communities, our teams, with support from local communities, are using innovative ways including locally-assembled floatation devices and boats to deliver nutrition commodities to flood-affected areas.

Save the Children has been operating in Ethiopia for over 60 years. The organization’s work is heavily anchored on health and nutrition as well as lifesaving water and sanitation assistance, protection services, education support, and cash and in-kind distributions to the most vulnerable children and their families. 

In 2022, Save the Children reached 7,574,882 people including 5,140,968 children through lifesaving food, water distribution, and treatment for malnutrition, among other services.

### [1] According to Somali Regional State Health Bureau - Public Health Emergency Management (PHEM) Directorate - November 27, 2023

[2] According to data from regional governments in Gambella, Afar and Somali regions

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