The Government of Somalia has launched an Oral Cholera Vaccination campaign targeting almost half a million people living in seven high risk pockets of the country. The African nation is currently facing a drought which has assumed the proportions of a national disaster and apprehensions of a famine looms large over the country. As is often the case in periods of droughts, clean and safe potable water availability is difficult to assure, leading to outbreaks of water borne diseases, like cholera. According to a WHO Press Release:
Somalia is currently experiencing a large-scale outbreak of cholera with over 11 000 cases of cholera and 268 deaths (case–fatality rate 2.4%) reported in 11 regions since the beginning of 2017. This is more than half the number of cases reported in total for 2016. The response efforts by the Ministry of Health, WHO, UNICEF and health partners have included active case search, effective case management, intensive household chlorination campaign, and community awareness.
Although access to safe drinking water, ensuring sanitation, and assuring hygiene both at the individual and the community levels remain the most important weapons in the fight against cholera, oral cholera vaccines can play a vital role in tiding over period such as the current outbreak situation. It takes a lot of time and investment to ensure that proper systems for provision of clean drinking water, sanitation and hygiene are available. In the interim period, vaccines provide an avenue to reduce case loads and enable the infrastructure building to commence. However, vaccination strategies should not be carried out by sacrificing WaSH efforts; OCV campaign represents an additional, supplementary and complementary strategy, but can never replace investing in WaSH as a counter strategy for cholera control, or for that matter, the control of any water borne disease. The WHO press release further states:
The vaccination campaign is supported by the Global Task Force on Cholera Control, Gavi the Vaccine Alliance, UNICEF and health partners in its various stages of planning and implementation. WHO is also providing support for the campaign in the areas of planning, organization and monitoring.