Ethiopia: Measles Outbreak Kills Eighteen in Oromia, Exacerbates Health Crisis Reeling From Cholera Outbreak, Drought, Flooding

Addis Abeba — Measles outbreak kills 18 in 149 Kebeles in the Oromia region with documented 1,274 cases, the figure showing a fatality rate of 1.4 percent. Children under five account for the majority of cases.

According to a report by UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, Health cluster partners are responding to ongoing public health threats with support from OCHA, which facilitated the transport of measles vaccines into difficult-to-reach areas in West Wollega Zone for a vaccination campaign.

However, due to security concerns and access restrictions, routine vaccination for measels has been interrupted in some locations over the past two years.

It was indicated that Zonal Health Office in West Wollega managed to immunize 47,000 children under the age of five against measles in Kondala and Begi Woredas for four consecutive days on April 10 with the help of health cluster partners like Action Against Hunger, World Vision, the Red Cross, and Project Hope, reaching 98 percent of the target population. Additionally, the kids were given vitamin A supplements.

In Bale Zone, several samples of suspected measles cases were sent for laboratory testing. Health authorities and humanitarian partners strengthened disease surveillance in the area and commenced a sensitization campaign in preparation for a potential measles outbreak.

Oromia region is facing multiple health-related challenges induced by cholera outbreaks including drought and floods.

As for cholera, 3,860 cases have been reported in Oromia Region since April 22. This is one of the longest cholera outbreaks recorded in Ethiopia, with first cases reported in August 2022.

According to the report, the worst affected areas are 18 Woredas in Bale, East Bale, Guji, West Arsi, and Borena zones. In Borena and Guji zones alone, 217 active cases were reported between April 15 and 22. The cholera outbreak has been rapidly expanding to other regions, including SNNP.

Within Oromia, new cholera cases are being reported from Teltele woreda.

The alarming increase in cholera cases is attributed to security and access constraints in affected areas, compounded by contamination of water sources following the onset of rainy season, said report. The root causes include communities that practice open defecation and a lack of access to clean drinking water.

A total of 1.9 million doses of oral cholera vaccine (OCV) arrived in Ethiopia to support the ongoing cholera outbreak response in Oromia and Somalia regions, according to the report. The OCV campaign has so far reached 99.8 percent of the target population in the Bale Zone’s Goro and Berbere Woredas. The OCV vaccination effort also covers 3 Woredas in Somalia and 12 in Oromia.