The Conrad N. Hilton Foundation has awarded a $250,000 grant to AmeriCares to establish a cholera treatment center, in collaboration with the Bangladesh-based health research institution icddr,b, for victims of the humanitarian crisis in Somalia.

The initiative will save lives in a country where cholera is endemic and seasonal outbreaks have been exacerbated by famine conditions and the resulting displacement of over 100,000 refugees into unsanitary, ad hoc settlements around Mogadishu over the past year. Without treatment, patients suffering from the most severe cholera cases can die in as little as 10 or 12 hours.

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"Cholera is the most contagious and lethal diarrheal disease, particularly for young children and famine victims with compromised immune systems. But the good news is deaths from cholera are preventable," AmeriCares medical director Dr. Frank Bia, an expert in infectious diseases, said. "With the proper treatment, 99 percent of those affected will survive."

The Hilton Foundation grant will support the creation of a model cholera treatment center, which can treat up to 100 patients per day at Mogadishu's largest maternal and child health hospital. It will also fund training for health workers in refugee camps in Dadaab, Kenya so they may effectively prepare for outbreaks and manage cholera and other diarrheal diseases. Overall, the initiative aims to reduce cholera mortality rates to less than 1 percent. The project is a collaborative effort of AmeriCares, icddr,b and International Medical Corps.

After famine was declared in parts of Somalia, Kenya and Ethiopia last summer, AmeriCares delivered 15 emergency aid shipments to the region, providing $2 million worth of desperately needed medicines, nutritional supplements, water treatment supplies and medical equipment. In September, icddr,b conducted train-the-trainer workshops in effective cholera case management for physicians and nurses in Mogadishu and near the Kenya-Somalia border.

Recent rains have improved crops, but the United Nations warns that the humanitarian crisis is far from over. More than 9 million people are still in need of assistance across the Horn of Africa. AmeriCares has been aiding survivors of natural disasters, political conflict and extreme poverty in Africa and around the world for 30 years, saving lives and restoring health and hope.