UN warns of measles outbreak in Somali refugee camps in Ethiopia

08/07/2011 10:04

WireUpdate:  UNITED NATIONS (BNO NEWS) -- The United Nations on Saturday voiced alarm after an outbreak of suspected measles was reported at Somali refugee camps in Ethiopia.

So far there have been 47 official cases and three deaths from suspected measles in the Kobe camp of 25,000 people over the past week, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said in a news release. Other suspected cases have also been reported in the other two refugee camps in the area.

"This situation is alarming and we cannot afford to wait. We must act now, urgently and decisively, to arrest and turn around this situation," Moses Okello, UNHCR's Representative in Ethiopia, said.

Health experts said high rates of acute malnutrition, low vaccination coverage in Somalia and overcrowding in the camps are some of the aggravating factors associated with this outbreak. "The mix of measles and high levels of malnutrition can be fatal," the UNHCR warned.

According to the latest figures, Ethiopia hosts a total of 237,500 refugees, mainly from Somalia, Eritrea and Sudan. Over 800,000 Somalis have fled their country in recent years due to war and drought.

The United Nations on Wednesday declared a famine in three more areas of Somalia, bringing to five the number of regions with famine conditions in the Horn of Africa country where acute malnutrition and starvation has already claimed the lives of tens of thousands of people.

According to the UN, the drought in the Eastern Horn of Africa is expected to continue until early 2012, and the number of people in acute livelihood crisis is expected to increase from 8.8 million in the coming months.

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