News / Africa

Sierra Leone's Cholera Epidemic Easing But Not Over

Lisa Schlein
International aid agencies report a downward trend in the number of cholera cases in Sierra Leone.  But, they warn against complacency and urge continued vigilance.   The World Health Organization, WHO reports 18,919 cases of cholera, including 273 deaths have been confirmed.  

This is the largest cholera outbreak seen in Sierra Leone since the pandemic hit the country in 1970 and 1971.   And, it constitutes the largest epidemic of cholera in Africa this year.  The epidemic is still raging, but slowing down.  Cholera reached its peak of 2,100 cases a week in August.   Since then, the number of reported cases has fallen dramatically to about 100 a week.

WHO says 12 of 13 districts in Sierra Leone are now affected.  About 60 percent of all cases are in the capital, Freetown.  It notes the case fatality ratios have significantly decreased to less than one percent.

WHO Coordinator of Control of Epidemic Diseases William Perea says these good results show that the case management and surveillance systems are working well.   But, he tells VOA it is still too early to scale back the response.

"Surveillance again is the key," he said. "But, what is going to happen now is we are training lab technicians across the country and distributing material to make sure that specimens are collected at the most peripheral areas and that those samples are collected and analyzed as quickly as possible to give us a better picture of what is going on.   We still have cases here and there, but we expect that within the next two months the number of cases will finally recede."

Meanwhile, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) is launching an emergency appeal for more than $2,600,000 to help contain the spread of cholera within Sierra Leone and across the West Africa region.

The money will assist more than 3.5 million indirect and direct beneficiaries for the next six months.  It will help support the Sierra Leone Red Cross Society, which has more than 700 volunteers working with communities at risk.

Red Cross Emergency Health Officer Amanda McClelland has been working with the Sierra Leone Red Cross for the past two months.  Although the cholera numbers may be stabilizing in Sierra Leone, she says it is important to continue efforts to respond at the district and village levels.

"We would agree that the surveillance has definitely improved.  But, we are seeing a number of mild cases treated by the volunteers at the community level and we continue to see that spread slowly but surely towards the south and southwest down towards the Liberian border," she said. "So, this is not the time to pull back even though the numbers are coming down.  We need to continue our efforts.  We need to continue supporting the Ministry of Health with case management and effective control."

McClelland says a lot of the rural hospitals are in need of basic infrastructure support.   So, she says the Red Cross has been providing water systems and basic latrines as well as infectious disease and waste management systems.  

The outbreak and spread of cholera in Sierra Leone and elsewhere in West Africa is connected to poor sanitation and a lack of access to fresh water.  

Health agencies say people should not be dying of cholera.  It is a preventable and easily treatable disease.  They say providing people with water, sanitation, access to basic health and health promotion can save their lives.

You May Like

Israelis Quietly Expand Enclave in Palestinian District of Jerusalem

Estimated 500 settlers, armed or protected by paramilitary police, live in Silwan among 50,000 Palestinians More

Video US, Iran Face Similar Challenges in Syrian Fight Against IS

Both Washington, Tehran back fighters battling Islamic State militants in Iraq -- but in Syria they support opposing sides in country’s civil war More

China Boosts Efforts to Help Afghan, Regional Stability

Observers say China’s increased regional involvement are due to concerns that Afghan instability and the presence of anti-China militants in Pakistani border areas could fuel Xinjiang troubles More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Lawi
X
William Ide
October 20, 2014 10:23 AM
China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video Ebola Orphanage Opens in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's first Ebola orphanage has opened in the Kailahun district. Hundreds of children orphaned since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak face stigma and rejection with nobody to care for them. Adam Bailes reports for VOA about a new interim care center that's aimed at helping the growing number of children affected by Ebola.
Video

Video Latinas Converting to Islam for Identity, Structure

Latinos are one of the fastest growing groups in the Muslim religion. According to the Pew Research Center, about 6 percent of American Muslims are Latino. And a little more than half of new converts are female. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti travelled to Miami, Florida -- where two out of every three residents is Hispanic -- to learn more.
Video

Video Nigeria Agrees to Cease-Fire With Boko Haram

Islamist militant group Boko Haram and the Nigerian government have agreed to a cease-fire. The Nigerian government issued an order Friday, telling all military chiefs "to comply with the cease-fire agreement in all theaters of operations. Why now and the significance of the agreement are questions on some people’s minds. VOA's Mariama Diallo reports.
Video

Video Kobani Fighting Sends 400,000 Refugees to Turkey

The offensive by Islamic State militants against the northern Syrian city of Kobani has caused hundreds of thousands of residents to flee to Turkey. They receive help from Turkish authorities and individuals, but say much more is needed. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from the town of Suruc a few kilometers from the border.
Video

Video Exclusive: American Joins Kurds' Anti-IS Fight

The United States and other Western nations have expressed alarm about their citizens joining Islamic State forces in Syria and Iraq. In a rare counterpoint to the phenomenon, an American has taken up arms with the militants' Syrian Kurdish opponents. Elizabeth Arrott has more in this exclusive profile by VOA Kurdish reporter Zana Omer in Ras al Ayn, Syria.
Video

Video South Korea Confronts Violence Within Military Ranks

Every able-bodied South Korean male between 18 and 35 must serve for 21 to 36 months in the country’s armed forces, depending upon the specific branch. For many, service is a rite of passage to manhood. But there are growing concerns that bullying and violence come along with the tradition. Reporter Jason Strother has more from Seoul.
Video

Video Comanche People Maintain Pride in Their Heritage

The Comanche (Indian nation) once were called the “Lords of the Plains,” with an empire that included half the land area of current day Texas, large parts of Oklahoma, New Mexico, Kansas and Colorado.The fierceness and battle prowess of these warriors on horseback delayed the settlement of most of West Texas for four decades. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Lawton, Oklahoma, that while their warrior days are over, the 15,000 members of the Comanche Nation remain a proud people.
Video

Video Turkey Campus Attacks Raise Islamic Radicalization Fears

Concerns are growing in Turkey of Islamic radicalization at some universities, after clashes between supporters of the jihadist group Islamic State (IS) or ISIS, and those opposed to the extremists. Pro-jihadist literature is on sale openly on the streets of Istanbul. Critics accuse the government of turning a blind eye to radicalism at home, while Kurds accuse the president of supporting IS - a charge strongly denied. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Syrian Defector Leaks Shocking Photos of Torture Victims

Shocking photographs purporting to show Syrian torture victims are on display at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington. The museum says the graphic images are among thousands of photographs recently smuggled out of Syria by a military policeman-turned-defector. As VOA reporter Julie Taboh reports, the museum says the photos provide further evidence of atrocities committed by the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad against its own people.
Video

Video Drought-Stricken California Considers Upgrading Water System

A three-year drought in California is causing a water shortage that is being felt on farms and cities throughout the state. As VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports, water experts, consumers and farmers say California needs to make changes to cope with an uncertain future.
Video

Video TechShop Puts High-tech Dreams Within Reach

Square, a business app and card reader, makes it possible to do credit card transactions through cell phones. But what made Square possible? VOA’s Adrianna Zhang and Enming Liu have the answer.

All About America

AppleAndroid