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News: Measles outbreak claims 15 lives in Amhara's Wagihimra Zone amid severe drought

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Addis Abeba – At least 15 people have died in the Wagihimra Zone of Ethiopia’s Amhara region due to a measles outbreak exacerbated by ongoing drought conditions.

In an interview with Addis Standard, Assefa Negash, the head of Wagihimra’s health department, revealed that approximately 1,800 people have been affected by measles in the zone.

He described the public health crisis as “complex” and deeply intertwined with a catastrophic harvest failure.

“Following last year’s drought caused by the lack of rain, cholera, measles, malaria, scabies, and zoonotic diseases have surged in the zone,” Assefa stated.

He emphasized that while malaria is also spreading, measles has reached a “dangerous level.”

The health department head noted a troubling increase in the number of children, pregnant women, and lactating mothers suffering from these diseases due to severe food shortages.

In addition to the food scarcity caused by the drought, vaccination services have not been available in the zone for the past three years. “Due to security problems in the region, the food and resources needed to respond to the drought-affected communities were not coming in, which led to the spread of the epidemic and the rising death toll,” Assefa stressed.

The measles outbreak, which first appeared in the drought-stricken Sahala district of Wagihimra Zone in October 2023, is now spreading to other districts, severely affecting children and elderly individuals.

A November 2023 report by Addis Standard quoted Mihret Melaku, the head of the Wagihimra Zone Food Security and Disaster Prevention Office, describing the situation as critical.

Mihret explained that all crops have failed this year, and ongoing regional conflict has further compounded the crisis by obstructing aid deliveries due to road access issues.

He also disclosed that six people had died of hunger and over 10,000 domestic animals had perished in Sahala district alone.

A recent report highlights the continued adverse impact of the drought on Wagihimra residents.

Earlier this week, the head of one of the kebeles within Sahala district, Babilaza, told Voice of America that two people and over 5,000 animals had died in his area due to the drought. AS

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