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Extreme Weather Events are Linked to Infectious Disease Outbreaks

In May 2021, a prolonged downpour of rains in Somalia caused the Shabelle River to overflow, flooding the nearby region of Jowhar and resulting in entire communities being submerged.

More than 13,700 people were affected by the flood, resulting in thousands losing their homes and livelihoods from the extensive damage to farmlands and infrastructure. Further, as is often the case with floods, the resulting still water became a catalyst for cholera.

Weather and climate extremes are becoming more frequent and more intense as a result of climate change, and while this affects everything, the brunt of the impact is felt in low- and middle-income countries.

The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) identified tropical latitudes and developing countries in Africa, Southern Asia and the Pacific Islands as higher risk and as population growth, migration and urbanization continue, more people are exposed to these extreme events and the resulting health crises that occur.

Between 2030 and 2050, climate change is expected to cause approximately 250,000 additional deaths per year from malnutrition, malaria, diarrhea and heat stress alone. The direct damage costs to health are estimated to be between USD $2-4 billion per year by 2030.

Nearly a year since the flooding along the Shabelle River in Somalia, cholera cases remain high in the communities in Jowhar. HPIC’s Emergency Response program responds to natural disasters and the resulting disease outbreaks, and earlier this year, HPIC sent a shipment of cholera kits to provide relief to communities in Jowhar. These kits included essential treatments such as antibiotics and oral rehydration therapies provided by pharmaceutical partners Teva, Pfizer and Fresenius Kabi.

As Somalia enters its next rainy season while still grappling with the impacts of the last one, mitigation efforts and greater public awareness about the impacts of extreme weather events are essential in order to minimize disease outbreaks and loss of life and livelihoods.

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