The World Health Organisation (WHO) says it has launched one of Africa’s largest immunisation campaigns using Oral Cholera Vaccine (OCV).
WHO said on its website that the campaign, which runs from 22 to 28 June in high-risk areas of Somalia, will vaccinate more than 650,000 people aged one year and above.
This is to eliminate the risk of the disease among vulnerable populations and to prevent recurring cholera outbreaks in the country, it said.
Somali health authorities and WHO are conducting the campaign with support of the United Nations Children’s Fund, Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance and the Global Task Force for Cholera Control.
Dr Mamunur Rehman Malik, WHO Representative in Somalia, said: “No one should die of cholera in the 21st century, especially when we have an affordable and easily administrable cure. It remains our collective responsibility to save lives and end cholera in Somalia, and we remain committed to keeping the country free from future cholera outbreaks,” he said.
WHO stated that during the two rounds of the campaign, officials would go from house-to-house in six districts.
It said they would visit the districts of Heliwa, Kahda and Harmajajab in Banadir, Balad and Afgoye in South West State, and Kismayo in Lower Juba offering oral cholera vaccine.
According to the organisation, vaccination teams that include 126 supervisors at national, regional and district levels and 112 vaccinators will aim to vaccinate around 150 people a day.
“A total of 217 community mobilizers have been deployed to conduct house-to-house visits and inform communities about campaign dates and benefits of the vaccines prior to beginning of the campaign,” it said.
Somalia’s Minister of Health, Dr Fauziya, reportedly described cholera as a major public health concern in the country, while pledging sustained collaboration with WHO to fight the scourge.
“Cholera remains one of our major public health threats. We now have the means and solutions to end cholera in Somalia. We continue to work with WHO and our other partners to save lives and prevent cholera on a long-term sustainable basis,” the official said.
Somalia had reported 1,041 cases of suspected cholera since the current cholera outbreak began in January.
This included one related death in 25 districts of the states located in the basins of the Jubba and Shabelle rivers.
Experts agree that use of OCV in combination with other proven interventions like access to safe water and sanitation, and improving hygiene will help to eliminate recurrent cholera outbreaks in Somalia.