News / Africa

Rains Worsen West Africa Cholera Epidemic

A cholera patient in bed at the Don Bosco center in Goma, Congo, July 2011 (file photo).
A cholera patient in bed at the Don Bosco center in Goma, Congo, July 2011 (file photo).
Anne Look

International aid workers say West and Central Africa are in the grips of a regional cholera epidemic that has been aggravated by heavy rains and flooding.

According to the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, nearly 40,000 cases of cholera have been reported in Cameroon, Chad, Niger and Nigeria this year. The U.N. says the disease has killed nearly 1,200 people in those countries surrounding the Lake Chad Basin.

Chad and Cameroon are among the hardest hit. In both countries, the current actually epidemic began last year and recently flared up with the onset of another rainy season.

Cameroon has reported more than 14,000 cases this year across all of the country's major regions.

Moustapha Diallo, Regional spokesman for the International Federation of the Red Cross, says the reasons for the epidemic in Cameroon are similar to those around the region.

"The population does not have access to clean drinking water or adequate sanitation facilities," he said. "Villagers do not build latrines but prefer to go in nature [and] rains then wash up solid waste and spread the disease."

Cholera, a highly contagious diarrheal disease that causes severe dehydration and can lead to death if not treated quickly, is transmitted by ingesting food or water contaminated by bacteria.

Cross-border transmission

Relief workers blame cross-border transmission for persistent outbreaks in the Lake Chad Basin, which serves as a bustling trading center for farmers, fishermen and merchants.

"Fishing around Lake Chad has been a problem because people move across borders," said Lillian Okwirry, chief of the Water, Environment and Sanitation division for the U.N. Children's Fund in Chad. "You go to a funeral on the other side and you are bringing back the cholera."

Okwirry says free treatment clinics in Chad attract infected Cameroonians who lack similar services at home, exacerbating the problem.

"People come to this side to be treated and that in itself is a mode of transmission," she said.

Although the problem is regional in scope, Okwirry says countries comprising the Lake Chad Basin typically do not coordinate public health strategies, and that outbreaks often happen in far-flung villages where medical care is limited.

Chad has reported more than 11,000 cases of cholera this year, more than two-thirds of them since the rains began in June.

A looming crisis?

As the rainy season peaks in September and October, Red Cross officials warn if rapid action is not taken caseloads in Chad could double to as many as 25,000 and possibly spread to refugee camps along the Sudanese border.

Nigeria has reported more than 13,000 cases of cholera this year where cases were seen in 23 of the country's 36 states. Niger and Mali have also each reported approximately 1,000 cases this year.

Further south, the World Health Organization says cholera has spread in the Democratic Republic of Congo along the Congo River, causing more than 5,000 cases since March.

Cholera is treatable and preventable, and the WHO says a death rate of higher than one percent indicates problems in the health system.  Affected countries in the Lake Chad Basin, such as Cameroon and Chad, are reporting death rates of more than 3 percent.

You May Like

Guatemala Mudslide Death Toll Rises to 86

Death toll is expected to continue to rise as emergency crews dig through tons of earth for an estimated 350 people still missing More

Debris Found in Search for Missing Ship

Objects located Sunday have not yet been confirmed to be from the 240 meter container ship, El Faro, which disappeared in the eye of Hurricane Joaquin, according to US Coast Guard More

Survivor: Gunman Spared 'Lucky One' to Give Police Message

Law enforcement official says a manifesto of several pages was recovered; contents not revealed More

This forum has been closed.
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Russia’s Syria Involvement Raising Concerns in Europei
Luis Ramirez
October 02, 2015 4:45 PM
European nations are joining the United States in demanding that Russia stop targeting opposition groups other than the Islamic State militants as Russian warplanes continue to conduct raids in Syria. The demand came in a statement from Britain, France, Germany, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United States Friday. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video Russia’s Syria Involvement Raising Concerns in Europe

European nations are joining the United States in demanding that Russia stop targeting opposition groups other than the Islamic State militants as Russian warplanes continue to conduct raids in Syria. The demand came in a statement from Britain, France, Germany, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United States Friday. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video First Self-Driving Truck Debuts on European Highways

The first automated semi-trailer truck started its maiden voyage Friday, Oct. 2, on a European highway. The Daimler truck called 'Actros' is the first potentially mass-produced truck whose driver will be required only to monitor the situation, similar to the role of an airline captain while the plane is in autopilot mode. VOA’s George Putic reports.

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 Migrant Influx Costs Europe, But Economy Could Benefit

The influx of hundreds of thousands of refugees and migrants is testing Europe’s ability to respond – especially in the poorer Balkan states. But some analysts argue that Europe will benefit by welcoming the huge numbers of young people – many of them well educated and willing to work. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

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.

Video New Fabric Helps Fight Dust-Related Allergies

Many people around the world suffer from dust-related allergies, caused mainly by tiny mites that live in bed linen. Polish scientists report they have successfully tested a fabric that is impenetrable to the microscopic creatures. VOA’s George Putic has more.

Video Burkina Faso's Economy Deeply Affected by Political Turmoil

Political turmoil in Burkina Faso over the past year has taken a toll on the economy. The transitional government is reporting nearly $70 million in losses in the ten days that followed a short-lived coup by members of the presidential guard earlier this month. The crisis shut businesses and workers went on strike. With elections on the horizon, Emilie Iob reports on what a return to political stability can do for the country's economic recovery.

Video Fleeing Violence, Some Syrians Find Refuge in Irbil

As Syrians continue to flee their country’s unrest to seek new lives in safer places, VOA Persian Service reporter Shepol Abbassi visited Irbil, where a number Syrians have taken refuge. During the religious holidy of Eid al-Adha, the city largely shut down, as temperatures soared. Amy Katz narrates his report.

Video Nigeria’s Wecyclers Work for Reusable Future in Lagos

The streets and lagoons of Africa's largest city - Lagos, Nigeria - are often clogged with trash, almost none of which gets recycled. One company is trying to change that. Chris Stein reports for VOA from Lagos.

Video Sketch Artist Helps Catch Criminals, Gives a Face to Deceased

Police often face the problem of trying to find a crime suspect based on general descriptions that could fit hundreds of people in the vicinity of the crime. In these cases, an artist can use information from witnesses to sketch a likeness that police can show the public via newspapers and television. But, as VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, such sketches can also help bring back faces of the dead.

Video Thailand Set to Build China-like Internet Firewall

Thai authorities are planning to tighten control over the Internet, creating a single international access point so they can better monitor content. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Bangkok on what is being called Thailand’s own "Great Firewall."

Video Croatian Town’s War History Evokes Empathy for Migrants

As thousands of Afghanistan, Iraqi and Syrian migrants pass through Croatia, locals are reminded of their own experiences with war and refugees in the 1990s. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from the town of Vukovar, where wartime scars still are visible today.

Video Long Drought Affecting California’s Sequoias

California is suffering under a historic four-year drought and scientists say even the state's famed sequoia trees are feeling the pain. The National Park Service has started detailed research to see how it can help the oldest living things on earth survive. VOA’s George Putic reports.

VOA Blogs