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

    Mother of IS Supporter: Son Was Peaceful, 'Role Model'

    Somali-American Abdirizak Mohamed Warsame pleaded guilty Thursday to charges of conspiring to provide material support to Islamic State militants

    Factions Shift as Civilians Die in Syrian War

    Scenario likely only to further confuse military situation on ground and potentially worsen humanitarian crisis that already has grown to epic proportions

    Presidential Hopefuls Woo Minorities, Evangelicals

    Four GOP candidates to speak at forum at Bob Jones University in Greenville, South Carolina

    By the Numbers

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Two-thirds of World Faces Water Shortagei
    X
    February 12, 2016 7:31 PM
    Four billion people — or two out of every three on the planet — do not have enough water to meet their basic needs. That is far greater than previously thought, according to a new study that presents a more accurate picture of the problem. As VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports, the findings will help policymakers and the public craft solutions to address the threat.
    Video

    Video Two-thirds of World Faces Water Shortage

    Four billion people — or two out of every three on the planet — do not have enough water to meet their basic needs. That is far greater than previously thought, according to a new study that presents a more accurate picture of the problem. As VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports, the findings will help policymakers and the public craft solutions to address the threat.
    Video

    Video Gateway to Mecca: Historical Old Jeddah

    Local leader Sami Nawar's family has been in the Old City of Jeddah for hundreds of years and takes us on a tour of this ancient route to Mecca, also believed to be the final resting place of Adam's wife, Eve.
    Video

    Video New Technology Aims to Bring Election Transparency to Uganda

    A team of recent graduates from Uganda’s Makerere University has created a mobile application designed to help monitor elections and expose possible rigging. The developers say the app, called E-Poll, will make Uganda's democratic process fairer. From Kampala, VOA's Serginho Roosblad reports.
    Video

    Video As Refugees Perish, Greek Graveyards Fill

    Aid workers on the Greek island of Lesbos say they are struggling to bury the increasing number of bodies of refugees that have been recovered or washed up ashore in recent months.  The graveyards are all full, they say, yet as tens of thousands of people clamor to get out of Syria, it is clear refugees will still be coming in record numbers. For VOA, Hamada Elrasam reports from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video Russia Bristles at NATO Expansion in E. Europe

    Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov is meeting Friday with the head of NATO after the Western military alliance and the United States announced plans for the biggest military build-up in Europe since the Cold War. Russia has called NATO's moves a threat to stability in Europe. But NATO says the troop rotations and equipment are aimed at reassuring allies concerned about Russia as VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video To Fight Zika, Scientists Target Mosquitoes

    Mosquitoes strike again. The Zika virus outbreak is just the latest headline-grabbing epidemic carried by these biting pests, but researchers are fighting back with new ways to control them. VOA's Steve Baragona takes a look.
    Video

    Video Mosul Refugees Talk About Life Under IS

    A top U.S. intelligence official told Congress this week that a planned Iraqi-led operation to re-take the city of Mosul from Islamic State militants is unlikely to take place this year. IS took over the city in June 2014, and for the past year and a half, Mosul residents have been held captive under its rule. VOA's Zana Omar talked to some families who managed to escape. Bronwyn Benito narrates his report.
    Video

    Video Scientists Make Progress Toward Better Diabetes Treatment, Cure

    Scientists at two of the top U.S. universities say they have made significant advances in their quest to find a more efficient treatment for diabetes and eventually a cure. According to the International Diabetes Federation, the disease affects more than 370 million people worldwide. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video NATO to Target Migrant Smugglers

    NATO has announced plans to send warships to the Aegean Sea to target migrant smugglers in the alliance's most direct intervention so far since a wave of people began trying to reach European shores.
    Video

    Video Russia's Catholics, Orthodox Hopeful on Historic Pope-Patriarch Meeting

    Russia's Catholic minority has welcomed an historic first meeting Friday in Cuba between the Pope and the Patriarch of Russia's dominant Orthodox Church. The Orthodox Church split with Rome in 1054 and analysts say politics, both church and state, have been driving the relationship in the centuries since. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video Used Books Get a New Life on the Streets of Lagos

    Used booksellers are importing books from abroad and selling them on the streets of Africa's largest city. What‘s popular with readers may surprise you. Chris Stein reports from Lagos.
    Video

    Video After NH Primaries All Eyes on South Carolina

    After Tuesday's primary in New Hampshire, US presidential candidates swiftly turned to the next election coming up in South Carolina. The so-called “first-in-the-South” poll may help further narrow down the field of candidates. Zlatica Hoke reports.
    Video

    Video Smartphone Helps Grow Vegetables

    One day, you may be using your smartphone to grow your vegetables. A Taipei-based company has developed a farm cube — a small, enclosed ecosystem designed to grow plants indoors. The environment inside is automatically adjusted by the cube, but it can also be controlled through an app. VOA's Deborah Block has more on the gardening system.
    Video

    Video Exhibit Turns da Vinci’s Drawings Into Real Objects

    In addition to being a successful artist, Renaissance genius Leonardo da Vinci designed many practical machines, some of which are still in use today, although in different forms. But a number of his projects were never realized — until today. VOA’s George Putic reports.