The Human Impact

Q+A- Sierra Leone cholera outbreak spreading unusually quickly – ChildFund

Poor road networks and heavy rains are limiting the ability of aid workers to accelerate the fight against a severe cholera outbreak in Sierra Leone, which has claimed the lives of at least 250 people and infected more than 15,000, according to charity ChildFund International.

Insufficient resources, a lack of proper toilets and insecure access to safe drinking water are also complicating relief efforts, Billy Abimbilla, national director for ChildFund Sierra Leone, told AlertNet.

Cholera is also spreading throughout West Africa in Guinea, Liberia, the Republic of Congo, the Democratic Republic of Congo and in western Niger, according to the World Health Organization (WHO) and UNICEF, the U.N. children’s agency. The cholera emergency in the region has killed more than 1,100 people, and more than 55,000 cases have been reported in 15 countries — an increase of 34 percent compared to the same period in 2011, according to the U.N agencies.

Cholera is an acute intestinal infection caused by the vibrio cholera bacterium. It is transmitted by ingesting food or water contaminated with fecal matter containing vibrio cholera, prompting diarrhoea and vomiting. If left untreated, infected people can die of dehydration, sometimes within a matter of hours.

Abimbilla shared his thoughts on the cholera emergency with AlertNet:

Q: What is the scale of the problem you are tackling? How does this differ from other outbreaks?

UN agencies urge speed in fight against W.Africa cholera

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.

Bringing life and hope to Zimbabwe through song

The purpose of song is to give hope to the people, Afro-jazz musician Oliver Mtukudzi says. Perhaps this is especially true of the music legend’s native Zimbabwe.

During Mtukudzi’s lifetime, Zimbabweans have struggled through a long war for independence from British and minority white rule, a vicious AIDS epidemic, explosive bouts of political violence, hyperinflation, hunger and a cholera crisis.

In a career spanning 30 years or so, Mtukudzi’s gift for addressing the most taboo of subjects through his music and lyrics has led him to being described as a moral guardian, a Shona prophet, a national hero.

Director hopes Haiti cholera film will pressure UN

An American filmmaker is hoping to use the power of viral video to raise awareness about Haiti’s cholera epidemic in much the same way the surprise Internet sensation Kony 2012 got the world talking about the plight of child soldiers under Ugandan warlord Joseph Kony.

If David Darg’s award-winning documentary, “Baseball in the time of Cholera”, gets even a fraction of the 100 million hits the Kony video received, there could soon be a lot more people demanding action on Haiti’s epidemic.

Darg’s hard-hitting film aims to heap public pressure on the United Nations to take responsibility for the outbreak which began in October 2010 and continues today.

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