Mohammed Abdi is four years old – but he looks less than half that.

Children like him are already weakened by hunger and illness but are now facing the threat of contracting cholera.

The deadly disease is one of the fastest spreading in Somaliland and is claiming the lives of many, from the old to the very young.


In some areas, 500 cases are reported each day.

And quarantine tents have been put up to deal with the most severely ill until they can be housed on hospital wards.

A quarantine tent at one of the largest hospitals in the region. Credit: ITV News

Cholera is a treatable disease contracted through drinking dirty water.

But it is something much of Somaliland’s 4.5 million population have had to resort to as they stand on the brink of starvation.

With more than half their livestock wiped out and no rain for three years, people consume whatever water they can find.

Even if it is contaminated by human waste or rotting animal carcasses.

Much of the water in Somaliland has been contaminated by rotting animal carcasses or human waste. Credit: ITV News

While ITV News was filming, Mohammed’s condition deteriorated badly. His lung collapsed and he was struggling to breathe.

Doctors took him into surgery and managed to release the pressure on his lungs – but he is still not out of danger.

He is so weakened by illness and malnutrition as a result of Somaliland’s drought, his respite is only temporary.

The wound from his operation has become infected and no one knows when, or if, he will ever get better.

No one knows if or when Mohammed will get better. Credit: ITV News

Sameera cries out in pain. She is just one year old and has cholera.

Her symptoms include acute diarrhea, one of the main signs of the disease.

She is being treated at Burco Hospital – the largest public hospital in the region which serves at least 350,000 people.

But, as with Mohammed, it remains to be seen if she will survive.

One-year-old Sameera is one of the youngest to contract cholera. Credit: ITV News

ITV News also spoke to a father who has lost three of his children to cholera.

“The worst thing that could happen to anyone happened to me,” Mohammed said.

“A father who had to bury three young children, who were only yesterday calling me dad and playing with me.”

That is what has driven him to educate others about cholera – so that they don’t have to go through the devastation he has.

Mohammed lost three of his children to cholera and is now educating people about the disease. Credit: ITV News

Authorities have rushed to put together teams of volunteers to go into communities to help people avoid contracting cholera.

The disease – which has not been seen in developed countries like the UK for over 100 years – can easily be treated using an oral rehydration sachet.

But without treatment a person can quickly become dehydrated, go into shock and die.

For the people of Somaliland, fighting disease is just one of their daily struggles, while they wait for the rain to come and aid to arrive.

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