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Cholera Persists in Africa Despite Aggressive Medical Intervention 

  • Phuong Tran

At its regional meeting in the Republic of Congo this week, the World Health Organization called for African governments to improve sanitation in an effort to cut the number of deadly cholera infections on the continent. Phuong Tran has more from VOA's West Africa Bureau in Dakar.

The number of cholera cases reported in the West African country of Guinea is 80 times higher than what it was this time last year. Guinea's Ministry of Health says the number of cases jumped from 30 to 2,500. About 90 people have died from cholera in Guinea this year compared to none last year.

Guilhem Molinie, the head of the Brussels-based non-profit Doctors Without Borders' office in Guinea, says the three cholera clinics set up this month to treat patients in the capital, Conakry, are consistently overflowing.

Cholera is spread by eating waste-infested food or drinking contaminated water. If not treated quickly, it leads to severe diarrhea, dehydration and possibly death.

Molinie says health workers can only treat symptoms, and need government support to attack the causes.

"Somebody should try to avoid the problem," said Molinie. "Every year we have the same problem. We are treating the patients, but if somebody were doing something for sanitation in town."

The doctor says there is no place to throw trash away in town. He says doctors burn their own trash because there is no city trash collection.

"Everything is going to the sea. With the first rain, it was incredible, you have all this trash floating in the sea. It is some kind of spectacle," he said.

The World Health Organization says 90 percent of the world's cholera cases are found in sub-Saharan Africa. Last year, more than 5,000 died from cholera in Africa, with more than 200,000 infected.

With at least one more month in the rainy season to go, about half of sub-Saharan African has reported cholera cases.

The head of World Health Organization in Africa, Angolan doctor Luis Gomes Sambo, says the disease continues to cost the continent lives, lost business revenue- especially tourism, and medical expenses related to treatment and awareness campaigns.

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