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

At Khmer Rouge Court, Long-Awaited Verdict Approaches

First phase of trial, which is coming to an end, has focused on forced exodus of Phnom Penh in 1975 - and now many are hopeful justice will be served More

Video When Fighting Eases, Gazans Line Up at Bakeries

When there is a lull in the conflict, residents who have been hunkered down in their apartments rush out to stock up on food and other necessities More

Video Information War Rages Alongside Real One in Ukraine

Downing of Malaysian airliner, allegations of cross-border shelling move information war in war-torn country to a new level More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Information War Rages Alongside Real One in Ukrainei
X
Al Pessin
July 31, 2014 8:13 PM
The downing of the Malaysian airliner two weeks ago, and allegations that Russians are shelling Ukrainian troops across the border, have moved the information war swirling around the Ukrainian conflict to a new level. VOA's Al Pessin reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video Information War Rages Alongside Real One in Ukraine

The downing of the Malaysian airliner two weeks ago, and allegations that Russians are shelling Ukrainian troops across the border, have moved the information war swirling around the Ukrainian conflict to a new level. VOA's Al Pessin reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video When Fighting Eases, Gazans Line Up at Bakeries

When there is a lull in the conflict in Gaza, residents who have been hunkered down in their apartments rush out to stock up on food and other necessities. Probably the most important destination is the local bakery. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Gaza City.
Video

Video US-Funded Program Offers Honduran Children Alternative to Illegal Immigration

President Obama and Central American leaders recently agreed to come up with a plan to address poverty and crime in the region that is fueling the surge of young migrants trying to illegally enter the United States. VOA’s Brian Padden looks at one such program in Honduras - funded in part by the United States - which gives street kids not only food and safety but a chance for a better life without, crossing the border.
Video

Video 'Fab Lab' Igniting Revolution in Kenya

The University of Nairobi’s Science and Technology Park is banking on 3-D prototyping to spark a manufacturing revolution in the country. Lenny Ruvaga has more for from Nairobi's so-called “FabLab” for VOA.
Video

Video Gazans in Shelled School Sought Shelter

Israel's air and ground assault against Hamas-led fighters in Gaza has forced many Palestinians to flee their homes, seeking safety. But safe places are hard to find, as VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Jabaliya.
Video

Video Rapid Spread of Ebola in West Africa Prompts Global Alert

Across West Africa, health officials are struggling to keep up with what the World Health Organization describes as the worst ebola outbreak on record. The virus has killed hundreds of people this year. U.S. President Barack Obama and other world leaders are watching the developments closely as they weigh what actions, if any, are needed to help contain the disease.
Video

Video Michelle Obama: Young Africans Need to Embrace Women's Rights

U.S. first lady Michelle Obama urged some of Africa's best and brightest to advocate for women's rights in their home countries. As VOA's Pam Dockins explains, Obama spoke to some 500 participants of the Young African Leaders Initiative, a six-week U.S.-based training and development program.
Video

Video Immigrant Influx on Texas Border Heats Up Political Debate

Immigrants from Central America continue to cross the U.S.-Mexico border in south Texas, seeking asylum in the United States, as officials grapple with ways to deal with the problem and provide shelter for thousands of minors among the illegal border crossers. As VOA's Greg Flakus reports from Houston, the issue is complicated by internal U.S. politics and U.S. relations with the troubled nations that immigrants are fleeing.
Video

Video Study: Latino Students Most Segregated in California

Even though legal school segregation ended in the United States 60 years ago, one study finds segregation still occurs in the U.S. based on income and race. The University of California Los Angeles Civil Rights Project finds that students in California are more segregated by race than ever before, especially Latinos. Elizabeth Lee reports for VOA from Los Angeles.

AppleAndroid