UN agencies urge speed in fight against W.Africa cholera

September 6, 2012

More than 1,100 people have died from cholera infection this year in West Africa, and a total of 55,289 cases have been reported in 15 countries — an increase of 34 percent compared to the same period in 2011, according to a joint statement released by the World Health Organization (WHO) and UNICEF, the U.N. children’s agency.

The cholera emergency in West Africa is set to get much worse due to rain and flooding that is creating conditions for the disease to spread quicker and further, the statement said.

In some of the most affected countries the situation has been made worse by exceptionally heavy rains that have flooded shanty towns in some urban centres, it said. The disease is spreading in Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone, the Republic of Congo and the Democratic Republic of Congo and in western Niger.

“Urgent action needs to be taken in critical areas to help stop the spread of this disease,’” said Luis Sambo, WHO’s regional director for Africa.

“Governments need to declare emergency early so as to benefit from the necessary technical and other support of partners. Just as crucial are better surveillance and cross-border collaboration between health authorities.”

Cholera is caused by a bacterium, vibrio cholera. It is transmitted by eating or drinking food or liquids contaminated with fecal matter containing vibrio cholera, the statement said. Transmission can be exacerbated by poor sanitation and poor hygiene practices, it added.

WHO is working with governments in the affected countries to ensure an effective response and UNICEF is supplying equipment, chlorine and medicines, the statement said.

Picture Credit: A man carries an umbrella to shield himself from rain, as he walks past the slum of Susan’s Bay in Sierra Leone’s capital Freetown, August 22, 2012.

More on cholera:

Sierra Leone declares cholera outbreak a national emergency – AlertNet

Breaking the silence on cholera in Sierra Leone – BBC Media Action

World Vision responds to cholera in Sierra Leone – World Vision U.S.A

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