(PORTLAND, OR) September 7, 2023 – Medical Teams International, a global health and humanitarian organization, is responding to the recent cholera outbreak threatening lives across Ethiopia. The disease, which is known to flourish where malnutrition is common, has affected people in 204 woredas, or districts, in the country.

Medical Teams is responding to the outbreak in Kumer refugee site in Amhara, Ethiopia, which hosts approximately 10,000 refugees, mostly from Sudan. There have been 341 cholera cases and 7 deaths in Kumer. The site was set up in June 2023 by Ethiopia’s Refugee and Returnees Service (RRS) and United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in response to the influx from the Sudan conflict. The camp is overcrowded, nutritious food and clean water are scarce, and more people arrive daily.

Medical Teams’ Mobile Health and Nutrition Team at Kumer refugee site was alerted about the cholera outbreak on August 24, 2023. Medical Teams immediately engaged with local and regional health authorities and other implementing partners in the refugee site to contain the outbreak and provide services. In Kumer, infrastructure and availability of water and sanitation facilities are very poor and drinking water is insufficient. Cholera, an acute diarrheal illness caused by infection of the intestine, can make people sick when they swallow food or water contaminated with cholera bacteria.

Medical Teams has supported the Ethiopian Ministry of Health in establishing and equipping a cholera treatment center in Kumer, which currently has a 50-bed capacity and is full. Medical Teams has also responded by training community health workers on cholera awareness messaging, improving infection prevention control in the health facility, providing surveillance for early case identification, and screening for malnutrition.

“In Ethiopia, Medical Teams remains focused on providing essential, life-saving care to refugees, internally displaced people, and the communities hosting them,” said Martha Holley Newsome, President and CEO of Medical Teams International. “We are doing all we can to prevent this tragic cholera outbreak from affecting those at greatest risk of complications, such as children and families suffering from malnutrition and lack of clean water.”

Medical Teams began its life-saving medical support in Ethiopia in March 2021 and is currently serving a catchment population of approximately 510,700 refugees, internally displaced people, and host communities in the regions of Amhara, Tigray, and Afar. In November of 2022 a ceasefire was declared between regional and federal forces in northern Ethiopia, but health needs remain immense in war-torn areas, where nearly 5 million people were displaced in 2021. Compounding the acute health issues facing these populations is the current global food crisis in the Horn of Africa, caused by one of the worst droughts in recent decades and rising food prices. With funding from institutional donors and the support of local health authorities, Medical Teams has expanded its malnutrition treatment and prevention work from 6 to 85 sites in the past year.

About Medical Teams International

Founded in 1979, Medical Teams International provides life-saving medical care for people in crisis, such as survivors of natural disasters and refugees. We care for the whole person— physical, emotional, social and spiritual. Daring to love like Jesus, we serve all people—regardless of religion, nationality, sex or race. Learn more at medicalteams.org and on social media using @medicalteams.

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