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

Video Russia’s Syrian Escalation Tests Obama’s Crisis Response

Critics once again question whether president has been slow to act on Syrian conflict, thus creating opening for powers like Russia More

Ancient African DNA Shows Mass Migration Back Into Africa

First genetic analysis of ancient human remains in Africa suggests massive migration from north around time of Egyptian empire More

NASA: Pluto Has Blue Sky

New photos also reveal the presence of water ice More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Hungary Criticized for Handling of Refugeesi
Henry Ridgwell
October 08, 2015 8:02 PM
Amnesty International has accused Hungary of breaking multiple international and European human rights laws in its handling of the refugee crisis. As Henry Ridgwell reports, thousands of migrants and refugees continue to travel through the Balkans to Hungary every day.

Video Hungary Criticized for Handling of Refugees

Amnesty International has accused Hungary of breaking multiple international and European human rights laws in its handling of the refugee crisis. As Henry Ridgwell reports, thousands of migrants and refugees continue to travel through the Balkans to Hungary every day.

Video Iraqi-Kurdish Teachers Vow to Continue Protest

Sixteen people were injured when police used tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse teachers and other public employees who took to the streets in Iraq’s Kurdish north, demanding their salaries from the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG). VOA’s Dilshad Anwar, in Sulaimaniya, caught up with protesting teachers who say they have not been paid for three months. Parke Brewer narrates his report.

Video Syrian Village Community Faces Double Displacement in Lebanon

Driven by war from their village in southwestern Syria, a group of families found shelter in Lebanon, resettling en masse in a half-built university to form one of the biggest settlements of its kind in Lebanon. Three years later, however, they now face being kicked out and dispersed in a country where finding shelter as a refugee can be especially tough. John Owens has more for VOA from the city of Saida, also known as Sidon.

Video Bat Colony: Unusual Tourist Attraction in Texas

The action hero Batman might be everyone’s favorite but real bats hardly get that kind of adoration. Put more than a million of these creatures of the night together and it only evokes images of horror. Sarah Zaman visited the largest urban bat colony in North America to see just how well bat and human get along with each other.

Video Device Shows Promise of Stopping Motion Sickness

It’s a sickening feeling — the dizziness, nausea and vomiting that comes with motion sickness. But a device now being developed could stop motion sickness by suppressing certain signals in the brain. VOA’s Deborah Block reports.

Video Making a Mint

While apples, corn, and cranberries top the list of fall produce in the US, it’s also the time to harvest gum, candy, and toothpaste—or at least the oil that makes them minty fresh. Erika Celeste reports from South Bend, Indiana on the mint harvest.

Video Activists Decry Lagos Slum Demolition

Acting on a court order, authorities in Nigeria demolished a slum last month in the commercial capital, Lagos. But human rights activists say the order was illegal, and the community was razed to make way for a government housing project. Chris Stein has more from Lagos.

Video TPP Agreed, But Faces Stiff Opposition

President Barack Obama promoted the Trans-Pacific Partnership on Tuesday, one day after 12 Pacific Rim nations reached the free trade deal in Atlanta. The controversial pact that would involve about 40 percent of global trade still needs approval by lawmakers in respective countries. Zlatica Hoke reports Obama is facing strong opposition to the deal, including from members of his own party.

Video Ukranian Artist Portrays Putin in an Unusual Way

As Russian President Vladimir Putin was addressing the United Nations in New York last month, he was also being featured in an art exhibition in Washington. It’s not a flattering exhibit. It’s done by a Ukrainian artist in a unique medium. And its creator says it’s not only a work of art - it’s a political statement. VOA’s Tetiana Kharchenko has more.

Video Nano-tech Filter Cleans Dirty Water

Access to clean water is a problem for hundreds of millions of people around the world. Now, a scientist and chemical engineer in Tanzania (in East Africa) is working to change that by creating an innovative water filter that makes dirty water safe. VOA’s Deborah Block has the story.

Video Demand Rising for Organic Produce in Cambodia

In Cambodia, where rice has long been the main cash crop, farmers are being encouraged to turn to vegetables to satisfy the growing demand for locally produced organic farm products. Daniel de Carteret has more from Phnom Penh.

Video Botanists Grow Furniture, with Pruning Shears

For something a bit out of the ordinary to furnish your home, why not consider wooden chairs, crafted by nature, with a little help from some British botanists with an eye for design. VOA’s Jessica Berman reports.

VOA Blogs