Cholera and acute diarrhea have claimed the lives of over 500 people and left thousands of others sick across Somalia since January, the United Nations’ health agency says.
The World Health Organization (WHO) on Thursday put the number of deaths since the beginning of the year from the epidemic at 524.
The disease, spread by contaminated food or water, has left more than 25,000 people sick in drought-hit parts of the country, the WHO added. The agency warned the number is likely to double by the end of June in the long-chaotic Horn of Africa nation.
WHO spokesman Tarik Jasarevic has said that the numbers are projected to increase to 50,000 by summer.
Meanwhile, the UN humanitarian agency known as Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said 533 people had died from the epidemic.
OCHA spokesman Jens Laerke said the case fatality rate for the disease is already 2.1 percent in Somalia, twice the emergency threshold. He added that death rates among Somalis infected with cholera now reach 14.1 percent in Middle Juba and 5.1 percent in Bakool,
"We still have 2.9 million people in level 3 and 4 - level 4 being the step just before we declare a famine; so almost 3 million in those critical and crisis emergency levels," Laerke said referring to the UN classification.
Laerke stated that the dire drought and food situation has forced more than 500,000 people to flee their homes since last November. He pointed out that the UN expects no improvements over the next six months at least.
Laerke said the aid agencies are already racing to avoid a repeat of famine in the drought-hit nation where at least 260,000 people died of starvation in 2011.
"We are in a race and I don't know who is going to win," he said.
The epidemic comes as the African country of 12 million people faces the threat of its third famine in 25 years of anarchy and civil war.