15 July 2011 -- In the Horn of Africa, increasingly frequent drought episodes punctuated by ever shorter recovery periods have exhausted the coping capacity of communities in a region where resources and services are already scarce. The resulting depletion of household resources is having a serious impact on the general health and nutritional status of the population.
The vicious cycle of hunger-ill -health-poverty means that fewer resources are dedicated to health care just as health needs increase as a result of poor diet. Lack of water and population displacements, which result in precarious sanitation, further increase the risk of communicable diseases such as cholera, typhoid fever, diarrhoea, acute respiratory infections and measles. Outbreaks of acute watery diarrhoea and measles have already been reported in Djibouti and Ethiopia. The effects of the drought are also aggravated by weak health care systems, with limited human resources and medical supplies and low immunization coverage.
The areas most severely affected are also those suffering from some of the highest disease burdens in the region. For example, in Somalia, child health is among the worst in the world. Infant mortality is estimated at 88 per 1000 live births and under-five mortality at 142 per 1000. In the first half of 2011, at least three Somali children died of malnutrition every day. In parts of Southern Somalia, one in three children is malnourished.
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