News / Africa

Upsurge in Cholera Threatens Thousands in Sahel

A woman gets water from a pool infected with cholera in Gounfara, Niger, despite warnings from medical services, August 29, 2005.A woman gets water from a pool infected with cholera in Gounfara, Niger, despite warnings from medical services, August 29, 2005.
x
A woman gets water from a pool infected with cholera in Gounfara, Niger, despite warnings from medical services, August 29, 2005.
A woman gets water from a pool infected with cholera in Gounfara, Niger, despite warnings from medical services, August 29, 2005.
Lisa Schlein
GENEVA —The United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) and World Health Organization (WHO) are warning of an alarming upsurge in cholera across West Africa's Sahel region, the area at the southern fringe of the Sahara Desert running from Mauritania to Chad. 

They report that cholera so far this year has killed more than 60 people and made about 2,800 others ill, with children being at particular risk.

The U.N. Children's Fund says the increase in cholera across the Sahel is placing children already weakened by malnutrition at acute risk.  UNICEF reports that since mid-June, the number of people affected by this deadly waterborne disease has shot up, especially in parts of Niger bordering the Niger River.

Niger's Ministry of Health reports nearly three times as many cholera patients over the first half of 2012 compared to the same period last year.  UNICEF notes about 400,000 severely malnourished children in Niger are expected to require life-saving treatment this year.

Cholera is endemic in the Sahel.  Last year, the disease was centered mainly in Chad, Cameroon, and Nigeria.  But this year, UNICEF spokeswoman Marixie Mercado says the epidemic appears to be concentrated further to the west.

"Its impact is aggravated by massive displacement of people fleeing the conflict in northern Mali.  More than 330,000 people, a fifth of them children, have fled their homes, with 150,000 internally displaced inside Mali and over 180,000 seeking refuge in neighboring countries," said Mercado.  "This displacement and the onset of the rainy season and this underlying situation of acute malnutrition is extremely dangerous for children."  

The World Health Organization says adults too are increasingly being infected with cholera.  Three weeks ago, several U.N. agencies and the Niger Ministry of Public Health jointly assessed the situation in the affected areas around the Niger River.

Since early this month, WHO has reported 45 cases, including two deaths in areas around Mali's Gao region.  The last outbreak in Mali was in 2011 during this time of year.  Aid agencies say they expect a sharp increase of cases in Mali and other countries in the Sahel with the onset of the rainy season, which runs from June to October.

WHO spokesman Tariq Jasarevic says the consumption of water from the Niger River is a potential cause for the outbreak.  Jasarevic  says the people in Mali no longer have the means to treat the water before they drink it.

"Cholera is endemic in this region so people know about this," noted Jasarevic.  "Cholera was traditionally quite well contained in the Sahel region because there were enough resources to put prevention activities and to have treatment capacities.  As we do not have access, we are working for example with the national medical association.  We are training health workers and then we are sending them into this region where we do not have access.  The first team of 30 health workers spent three weeks in the north treating about 3,500 patients, including 100 surgeries."  

In an effort to keep the outbreak from spreading, WHO and its partners have increased surveillance as well as technical support, including medication and diagnostic tests.

Both UNICEF and WHO say they are critically short of funds to do what is needed to contain the outbreak.  But, to do nothing until they receive the money is out of the question.   They say action must be taken now before the number of cholera cases explodes.

UNICEF notes a few simple measures can prevent the spread of this infectious deadly disease.  It says hand-washing campaigns, treatment of drinking water and awareness-raising programs are very effective and must be carried out throughout the year.

You May Like

Philippines, Muslim Rebels Try to Salvage Peace Pact

Peace process faces major setback after botched military operation to find terrorists results in bloody gunbattle between government forces, Moro Islamic Liberation Front fighters More

Republicans Expect Long, Expensive Presidential Battle

Political strategist says eventual winner will be one who can put together strongest coalition of various conservative groups that make up Republican Party More

Video New Wheelchair Is Easier to Use, Increases Mobility

Engineers have come up with a lever-operated design that makes use of easily accessible bicycle technology More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
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.
Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grievingi
X
Benno Muchler
March 26, 2015 3:41 PM
Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video US, South Korea Conduct Joint Military Exercises

The Eighth U.S. Army Division and the Eighth Republic of Korea Mechanized Infantry Division put on a well orchestrated show of force for the media this week during their joint military training exercises in South Korea. VOA’s Seoul correspondent Brian Padden was there and reports the soldiers were well disciplined both in conducting a complex live fire exercise and in staying on message with the press.
Video

Video Space Program Status Disappoints 'Last Man on the Moon'

One of the films that drew big crowds last week at the annual South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, tells the story of the last human being to stand on the moon, U.S. astronaut Eugene Cernan. It has been 42 years since Cernan returned from the moon and he laments that no one else has gone there since. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Young Filmmakers Shine Spotlight on Giving Back

A group of student filmmakers from across the United States joined President Barack Obama at the White House this month for the second annual White House Student Film Festival. Fifteen short films were officially selected from more than 1,500 entries by students aged 6 through 18. The filmmakers and their families then joined the president and a group of celebrities for a screening of their films. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video VOA Exclusive: Interview with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, during his first visit as president to Washington, gave a one-on-one interview with VOA Afghan Service reporter Said Suleiman Ashna, about his request for a change in U.S. troop levels, the threat from the Islamic State, and repairing relations with the United States and Pakistan. The interview was held at Blair House, late Sunday, in Pashto.
Video

Video California Science Center Tells Story of Dead Sea Scrolls

The ancient manuscripts were uncovered in the mid-20th century, and they are still yielding clues about life and religious beliefs in ancient Israel. As VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports, an exhibit in Los Angeles shows how modern science is bringing the history of these ancient documents to life.
Video

Video Angelina Jolie Takes Another Bold Step

Hollywood actress and filmmaker Angelina Jolie has revealed she had her ovaries and fallopian tubes removed to lower her odds of getting cancer. Doctors say the huge publicity over her decision will help raise awareness about the importance of cancer screening. VOA’s George Putic has more

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More