MOGADISHU, Aug. 16 (Xinhua) -- The World Health Organization (WHO) said on Wednesday that it urgently requires 6.8 million U.S. dollars to scale up its response activities in Somalia and conduct a measles immunization campaign for 4.2 million children in November.
WHO Representative in Somalia Ghulam Popal said Somalia is facing its worst measles outbreak in four years, with over 14,823 suspected cases reported as of July 31 compared to 5,000-10,000 cases per year since 2014.
"Somalia is facing one of the worst humanitarian crises in the world. Millions of people, already on the brink of famine, are now at risk of rapidly spreading infectious diseases like cholera and measles," Popal said in a statement.
"Normally, these diseases are easy to treat and prevent, but they can turn deadly when people are living in overcrowded spaces and are too weak to fight off infection," added Popal.
The UN health agency said the situation is especially critical for millions of under-vaccinated, weak and hungry children who are more susceptible to contracting infectious diseases.
According to WHO, over 80 percent of those affected by the current outbreak are children under 10 year of age.
The UN agency said the nationwide campaign is planned for November to stop transmission of the disease, targeting 4.2 million children.
It said the campaign will also intensify efforts to strengthen routine immunization and reach unvaccinated children to boost their immunity.
"As shown by the response to the cholera outbreak, with the right interventions, health authorities are confident that similar success may be seen in controlling the measles outbreak," WHO said.
WHO and health partners require 14.4 million dollars (a cost of 3.36 U.S. dollars per child) to conduct the measles vaccination campaign in November, of which WHO required 6.8 million dollars. To date, no funding has been received.
Over two years of insufficient rainfall and poor harvests have led to drought, food insecurity and a real risk of famine.
Malnutrition, mass displacement as a result of the drought, and lack of access to clean water and sanitation have created ideal conditions for infectious disease outbreaks.