A diarrhoea outbreak in Ethiopia has infected at least 15,000 people and killed 148 so far
Heavy flooding in the region is partly responsible for the epidemic, and the outbreak of acute watery diarrhoea could spread even further, aid agencies fear.
Ethiopia's southern region is particularly hard-hit, says Elisabeth Byrs, spokeswoman for the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. "We are concerned that this epidemic could cross the border, contaminating the whole of the southern region of Ethiopia and Kenya," she adds.
"This is a major worry because all efforts to halt it have so far been fruitless and the number of cases is rising."
A lack of clean drinking water is forcing people to turn to sources that are often highly contaminated by sewage – helping to spread the disease, aid agencies say. Existing water supply and sanitation problems in Ethiopia have been compounded by some of the heaviest flooding in a generation.
And on top of August’s unexpected showers, more rain is expected in September – the normal start of the rainy season. Meteorologists have warned that six areas in the north, west and south of Ethiopia are likely to face further flood threats.
Acute watery diarrhoea can be deadly in the developing world, particularly when combined with other illnesses and hunger. Young children are particularly at risk because it causes severe dehydration.
Over the past two years, flooding has struck several areas of eastern and southern Ethiopia, killing hundreds and displacing hundreds of thousands.
Since most of the rivers in Ethiopia extend through neighbouring countries, there are now fears that floods could also occur in settlements in Somalia, Sudan and Kenya, near rivers that have their sources in the Ethiopian highlands.
ETHIOPIA: Watery diarrhoea spreads, death toll up to 125
Diarrhoea kills 150 in flood-hit Ethiopia