Left: A mother with her severely malnourished child. Right: Local people taking pateints to health centers in donkey-driven cartwheel. Pictures: Waliif TV
Addis Abeba – A malaria outbreak has claimed the lives of at least 36 people over the last two months alone in Begi and Kondala districts of the conflict-ridden West Wollega zone, in Oromia regional state, local officials confirmed.
Begi District Health Officer Lataa Banti told local news that the 36 people died while undergoing treatment for malaria. Some 10,250 people were treated for the outbreak. Residents say that on average two to three are dying everyday. In addition to the malaria outbreak, pictures of severely malnourished children and mothers are widely circulating on social media.
According to Latta, the local health office has deployed a team of investigators to look if there were more deaths within the community that were not reported at health centers.
The latest crisis is happening in the backdrop of widespread cholera outbreak and acute malnutrition reports in various regions including Oromia that has led to the death of more than 200 people as of August this year.
A team from Oromia Physicians Association (OPA) has traveled to Kondala and Begi districts, the President Dr. Belayneh Latta, said, and found out that the number of people infected with the malaria is increasing. There is a lack of blood, medicines, oxygen and inadequate number of health professionals to save these people. The drugs needed for the prevention of malaria are as difficult to obtain as for other diseases, Dr Belayneh said.
The OPA said it was in discussions with various stakeholders to contain the outbreak and has called for humanitarian partners, both governmental and non-governmental, to provide strong assistance in all aspects. The Association warned that the outbreak could worsen in the next two months
Nearly all 42 existing health posts have been looted or damaged in Begi, a district of 100,000 inhabitants, and patients with life-threatening medical conditions were unable to receive urgent care because health facilities are no longer functioning in the district according.
“Across West, East and Kellem Wollega zones, an estimated 272,400 people are reportedly affected, and at least 45% of health centers and 63% of total health posts across West, East, Horo Gudru, and Kellem, Wollega zones are non-functional.”
“We have a shortage of emergency drugs. No operating room sets. We do not have beds. And now there is also a shortage of water supply due to the damage to the water reservoir. The community pharmacy was also destroyed, and all the drugs and materials were taken,” Dr Alemayehu Kiri, Guduru Primary Hospital`s medical director, said.
The UN said in July that all four of the zones in Wollega in western Oromia continue to experience a worsening humanitarian situation due to the spread of malaria amid ongoing rainfall and waterlogging, exacerbated by the weak health systems due to hostilities.
“Across West, East and Kellem Wollega zones, an estimated 272,400 people are reportedly affected, and at least 45% of health centers and 63% of total health posts across West, East, Horo Gudru, and Kellem, Wollega zones are non-functional.”, the UN said.
Humanitarian partners are facing challenges in their operations including in the delivery of supplies to zones, which are intermittently accessible due to sporadic hostilities or roadblocks. The UN further said that besides access challenges, there remains a shortage in anti-malarial drugs and rapid diagnostic tests, long lasting insecticide-treated nets, and lack of insecticides to manage permanent breeding sites. AS
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