Due to the prevalence of poverty in the area, there are many common diseases in Somalia. With a life expectancy of 55 years, Somalians’ quality of life suffers from ailments that people in a developed country might overlook. Whether transmitted through food, water, animals or other people, common diseases in Somalia burden local populations and may make traveling and volunteering risky. Greater efforts toward disease prevention and social development would improve accessibility to Somalians in need.
In Somalia, diarrhea and other common infectious diseases, HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and cardiovascular diseases are the deadliest. Though not necessarily as deadly, mosquito-borne malaria has the third-largest burden on the people of Somalia when measuring in years of healthy life lost. Neonatal disorders and malnutrition are also common diseases in Somalia.
These diseases often spread due to poor sanitation, leaving many people consuming food or water contaminated with fecal matter or sewage. Diarrhea is a symptom of diseases such as typhoid fever, Hepatitis A and cholera. Other common symptoms of these diseases include high fevers, fatigue, jaundice and abdominal pain. If left untreated, mortality rates can reach up to 20 percent.
HIV/AIDS spreads through bodily fluid contamination and is commonly associated with unprotected sexual contact. Somalia has over 26,000 people living with HIV/AIDS with 51 percent of them being women. Children under five are also vulnerable to the autoimmune disease. Since HIV/AIDS is considered a taboo subject directly associated with promiscuity, the stigma surrounding it prevents further progress in disease prevention.
Tuberculosis is an airborne illness, and inhaling only a few germs can cause infection in nearby individuals. Common symptoms include cough with sputum or blood, chest pains, weakness, weight loss, fever and night sweats. Especially in Somalia, HIV and tuberculosis go hand in hand. Statistics show that HIV-positive people are 20 to 30 times more likely to develop tuberculosis than people without HIV. Although tuberculosis is a treatable and curable disease, Somalia’s social and economic status limits access to valuable medicine.
When assessing the common diseases in Somalia, the country’s health sector requires drastic improvement to alleviate the deadly effects of illness. The most vulnerable people to disease are refugees or have been internally displaced by years of conflict and drought. Insecurity, especially prominent in central and southern Somalia, limits access to health resources. The few clinics and hospitals available cannot support the number of people who need treatment.
The most common victims of poverty and political unrest are disease-ridden, injured and malnourished. Somalia is home to some of the worst health indicators in the world, but with support at the governmental level for greater stability, the health situation could improve. Work in nutrition, sanitation and prevalence of medicine and vaccinations all contribute toward a healthier Somalia.
– Allie Knofczynski