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Plan Aims to Sharply Reduce Cholera Deaths Worldwide by 2030

FILE - A woman helps her son as he lies on a bed at a cholera treatment center in Sanaa, Yemen, June 6, 2017.
FILE - A woman helps her son as he lies on a bed at a cholera treatment center in Sanaa, Yemen, June 6, 2017.

Fifty leading United Nations and international agencies on Wednesday will roll out a global road map for reducing cholera deaths by 90 percent by 2030.

The new strategy from the Global Task Force on Cholera Control will target "hot spots" with simple, effective tools to prevent the disease from taking hold.

The World Health Organization reports cholera kills an estimated 95,000 people and affects nearly 3 million more every year at a cost of about $2 billion to world economies.

WHO says it expects the global cholera situation to worsen because of accelerating conflicts, climate change and population growth.

Currently, 47 countries are affected by cholera. The disease is endemic in 20 of these countries.

The director of WHO Health Emergencies, Peter Salama, said the cholera "hot spots" are relatively small but play a disproportionate role in spreading this fatal disease.

"Just to give you a sense of what we are talking about, in sub-Saharan Africa, around 40 million to 80 million people live in these cholera hot spots," he said. "If we can effectively target water and sanitation and health interventions at those areas, we will make a tremendous contribution in controlling this disease."

Success in Nigeria

Salama told VOA the road map for ending cholera already was in play in some of the world's crisis spots.

"We have seen, for example, in northern Nigeria's Borno state, the very effective use of oral cholera vaccine in a displaced population affected by conflict," he said, noting that there had been "a rapid decline" in cholera cases there.

Salama said this case provided a template for a very early response to any new emergency where a significant risk of cholera exists. For example, he cited the dire situation of a half-million Rohingya refugees who recently fled to Bangladesh to escape violence in Myanmar.

Health professionals say new tools, including oral vaccines, can prevent death from cholera. They note it has been more than 150 years since rich countries achieved cholera control. They say poor countries also can end cholera by improving water, sanitation and hygiene.