Burao, Somaliland, 18 September 2017– Amal had no idea what to do when her two year old daughter Rayan suddenly suffered from diarrhoea and vomiting. She prayed for her recovery, but the toddler died within 24 hours. Amal did not recognise the symptoms of Acute Watery Diarrhoea (AWD)/Cholera which was sweeping through Somaliland. However she could clearly see how quickly the illness spread, as her six other children all became sick.
A local community mobiliser, Nasra who was raising awareness about the disease in Burao district, saw the sick children and called the toll free ADW/cholera helpline at Burao hospital. An ambulance came to Amal’s home in Tog village and rushed all six children to the Cholera Treatment Centre in Burao town where they made a good recovery.
Nasra has worked as a health community mobiliser in the community for 10 years and is well known among the local people.
“I feels motivated and accepted in the community as they call me the health worker,” she said. “Yet I have never been to Medical School or even higher education.”
The AWD/Cholera outbreak in Somaliland began in March in the east and spread quickly with over 16,000 cases recorded by August with nearly 300 deaths. The district of Burao, east of the capital Hargeisa, was one of the worst affected. Two Cholera Treatment Centres were set up alongside the Regional Referal hospital with the helpline.
UNICEF has engaged several community mobilisers who go house to house raising awareness about AWD/Cholera and hygiene and distributing water purification tables and oral rehydration salts. Local communities not only became aware of the risks of AWD but surveys showed an improvement in handwashing and a reduction in open defecation. This led to a reduction in the number of AWD/cholera cases over the past few months.