CHOLERA EPIDEMIC IN SOMALIA

Cholera has killed as many as 25 people in southern Somalia in two days, and health officials said Saturday they fear the waterborne disease could spread. Officials said more than 80 people have been hospitalized in the town of Adaleh and in six surrounding villages. Adaleh is about 140 miles northeast of Mogadishu. Ali Omar Mohamed, an elder in the worst affected village, Harur Hajji Ali, said 15 people have died of cholera since Friday, including four on Saturday. Speaking by radio, he added that the bodies of 10 camel herders, also apparently victims of cholera, had been brought to his village from outlying areas. Health authorities expressed concern over the intensity of the disease and the large area that appears to be affected. Poor roads and a lack of vehicles has made it difficult for the sick to reach medical facilities. Local aid workers and the Spanish branch of Doctors without Borders have begun trying to contain the disease. Water purification operations and public awareness programs have already begun in some villages and in Adaleh, but there is a shortage of supplies and equipment. Cholera, a bacteria that causes diarrhea and kills by dehydrating the victim, has been endemic in Somalia for the past six years, hitting the capital and the south at the end of each year since 1994. Hundreds of people died of the disease in the East African nation last spring, Associated Press reports.