For volunteer Nimao Abdi Bade, ‘keeping humanity alive’ was about being there, being aware and taking swift action that helped contain a potentially catastrophic cholera outbreak.

The city of Tog Wajaale, perched on the Somaliland-Ethiopia border, serves as a crucial crossing point for people and goods, particularly those coming and going from the port of Berbera, located about 300 kilometers away on the Gulf of Aden.

It is also a place where an outbreak of any infectious disease could travel quickly — and far — because of the high levels of commerce and people passing through.

That’s one reason the swift action of a Red Crescent community health volunteer Nimao Abdi Bade was so critical during the first days of a cholera outbreak in January 2024.

Spotting a family with severe symptoms, Nimao recognized the signs and reported their case via a platform managed by the Somali Red Crescent Society (SRCS), which then triggered a swift official response from health authorities.

It turned to be the first reported case of acute watery diarrhoea (AWD) and cholera in Somaliland and it led to a combined and coordinated response that greatly reduced the impact of the outbreak.

A vigilant volunteer

Nimao’s vigilance didn’t stop at the first case. Tracing the family’s contacts, she uncovered more potential cases involving people who had recently crossed the border. This led to confirmation of several cholera cases and a Ministry of Health intervention.

Trained by SRCS to identify and report cases of acute watery diarrhoea (AWD) and cholera and inspired by her success, she urged others to report illnesses promptly.

“AWD/Cholera was new to us,” Nimao says. “But SRCS training equipped us to respond. I am so proud of myself and being a volunteer of SRCS.”

The outbreak prompted SRCS to deploy more volunteers for house-to-house visits and hygiene promotion.

Nimao’s commitment went beyond initial reporting. During her house-to-house visits, she identified five additional cross-border cases, promptly reporting them. These reports, verified by SRCS Community Health Officer Roda Mohamoud Mohamed, led to further investigations. The following day, six more suspected cases were reported and escalated to the Ministry of Health.

Empowered by her success, Nimao has become a champion for timely reporting and community-based surveillance. Her diligence exemplifies the vital role volunteers play in strengthening public health responses.

SRCS also responded by mobilizing volunteers in Wajaale, another town on the Ethiopian-Somaliland border, and the surrounding areas, as well as the nearby Marodijeh region. The focus shifted to house-to-house visits, hygiene promotion, and raising community awareness about AWD/Cholera risks and prevention.