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WHO: Cholera in Chad Could Spread to Sudan's Darfur  - 2004-08-29


The government of Chad is calling for international assistance to fight a cholera outbreak in the country. The World Health Organization says it is concerned that the disease could spread to the Darfur region of western Sudan, which is already struggling with a humanitarian crisis due to violence.

The government of Chad says more than 2,000 cases of cholera have been reported in the country, and it expects that number to more than double by the end of the rainy season in September.

The majority of cases in Chad are being reported in the region surrounding the capital in the west. But the WHO says it is deeply worried that it could spread to neighboring Sudan and the refugee camps sprawled across its troubled western region of Darfur.

An expert with the WHO, Claire-lise Chaignat, says the disease is endemic to mainly poorer areas that do not have access to safe water supplies. "Another risk factor is also the refugees living in refugee camps where they are living in close communities with not enough water and no proper sanitation," she said. "So, that is a high risk also for the community. So, for example, we are very much scared that, now, in the crisis in Darfur, or in the eastern Chad, there might be a cholera outbreak. In case the germ occurs because the water and sanitation situation is so bad that it's really, a real risk that we might have a cholera outbreak there."

Chad has been battling a potential locust scourge in the west, and has received an influx of refugees in the east from the fighting taking place in the Darfur region. The government is asking for nearly $200,000 in aid to try to curb the spread of cholera.

Cholera outbreaks are being reported throughout much of central and western Africa this year, including Cameroon, Sierra Leone, Guinea and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The disease spreads quickly in areas where water supplies are contaminated and causes dehydration within days. It can lead to death if victims are untreated within a week.

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