An ongoing cholera outbreak continues to affect Sierra Leone, and the WHO said on Tuesday it is increasing efforts to fight the disease, “as fatalities from the water and food-borne disease continue to increase,” the U.N. News Centre reports. “In a press statement, the [WHO] confirmed that the total number of reported cases had reached 18,508, including 271 deaths, since the beginning of 2012, with the highest cluster of infections occurring in the western area of the country where the capital, Freetown, is located,” the news service writes, noting the agency is working with the government and other partners “to step up their response” (9/18).
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon “warned on Friday that Haiti was struggling to cope with a cholera epidemic that has killed thousands and deteriorating conditions in tent camps as aid groups withdraw from the impoverished country due to a lack of funding,” Reuters reports. “In a report to the U.N. Security Council, Ban said there had been an increase in the number of cholera cases since the rainy season began in early March and the World Health Organization had projected there could be up to 112,000 cases during 2012,” the news service writes.
With nearly 6,000 reported cholera cases, including more than 100 deaths, Guinea is facing the worst cholera outbreak since 2007, and “some residents of the capital Conakry are clamoring to be vaccinated,” IRIN reports. “The cholera vaccine has shown promising results in the handful of communities where it has been used: none of those vaccinated have been infected,” the news service writes, noting, “For now cholera vaccination is not generally done on a large scale.” According to IRIN, “WHO and partner agencies are planning a cholera vaccine stockpile for epidemic control and looking at the possibility of introducing the two-dose oral vaccine into national immunization programs in endemic areas,” but the agency also “says such stockpiles should not detract from other prevention efforts: detection, diagnosis, and treatment of cases with oral rehydration and antibiotics; establishment of a safe water supply; implementation of adequate waste disposal, sanitation, and hygiene; and communication and social mobilization.”
“Floods in Niger have killed 81 people since July, the U.N. Office for Humanitarian Affairs [OCHA] announced Thursday, adding cholera outbreaks have killed a further 81 people,” Agence France-Presse reports. “Thousands of homes, schools, health centers and mosques have been destroyed, along with large quantities of food supplies, according to the authorities,” the news service writes, adding, “Cholera is spreading fast in at least four places, making 3,854 people sick and notably affecting the Tillaberi regions lying by the Niger river and close to the border with Mali, OCHA said.” The news service notes, “In neighboring Burkina Faso, heavy rains have killed 18 people and made 21,000 homeless since June. … Senegal and Nigeria have also been affected by the bad weather” (9/13).
In a post in the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s “Impatient Optimists” blog, Helen Matzger, a program officer in new vaccine delivery at the foundation, writes about outbreaks of cholera in Haiti, Sierra Leone, Guinea, and other areas, and says creating stockpiles of a recently WHO-approved cholera vaccine could help save lives in the future. “The creation of a cholera stockpile is not a panacea; … Still, the cholera vaccine works. Though many of us may never need it, millions of people living in some of the poorest regions of the world face cholera outbreaks all too often. We have a way to alter the course of an outbreak and save lives. Let’s use it,” she concludes (9/19).
In three separate articles, IRIN reports on the implications of flooding taking place in Africa. “Tens of thousands of people have been affected by flooding in parts of central, eastern and southern Chad following heavy rains in August,” the news service writes in the first article, adding that the floods have affected 445,725 people and destroyed 255,720 hectares of cropland. “The flooding is occurring at a time when Chad is still grappling with food insecurity,” IRIN states, noting, “Waterborne diseases, such as cholera, are endemic in some of the West and Central African countries, often peaking during the rainy season between August and December” (9/7).
In this post in the ONE Blog, John Anner, president of the East Meets West Foundation, discusses how the foundation is helping to improve sanitation and hygiene practices among poor populations. “As leaders gathered in Stockholm last week for World Water Week to discuss the future of our most precious natural resource, we are soberly reminded that for millions of people around the world, water safety is compromised because of poor sanitation and hygiene, which are the cause of numerous infections and waterborne illnesses,” he writes. “With the support of a new grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, East Meets West is pioneering a new approach to behavior change — one that we believe can help transform the sanitation and hygiene practices of those living in the most disadvantaged communities in Vietnam and Cambodia,” he continues, and details the community-based approach (9/4).
“Cholera vaccine gives indirect protection to unvaccinated people in communities where a substantial fraction of the population gets the vaccine,” according to a study from the island of Zanzibar in East Africa, published in the Lancet on Tuesday, NPR’s “Shots” blog reports. “The effect is called ‘herd immunity,'” the blog notes. According to “Shots,” “half the people in six rural and urban areas received two doses of oral cholera vaccine,” and “[f]or those who got it, the vaccine was 79 percent protective against the disease” while “their neighbors who didn’t get vaccinated had almost as much protection.”
“Heavy rainfall is accelerating the spread of cholera in Sierra Leone and Guinea, where existing health risks such as poor hygiene practices, unsafe water sources and improper waste management are believed to have triggered the disease which has killed 327 people and infected more than 17,400 in both countries since February,” IRIN reports. “Prevalence is high in the congested slum areas in the capitals of Guinea and Sierra Leone, which have few clean toilets, and most people defecate in the open, often dangerously close to open wells, which are the source of water for most residents,” the news service writes (8/31). “Sierra Leone has been hit by its worst outbreak of the water-borne disease in nearly 15 years and cases are expected to peak at around 32,000 in September, the west African nation’s rainiest month, according to the World Health Organization,” Agence France-Presse notes, adding, “Neighboring Guinea has also been hard hit with 104 deaths and some 5,000 cases” (9/3).
“Almost two years after the deadly disease first appeared in Haiti in the aftermath of the Jan. 12, 2010 earthquake, the story of cholera is one of both success and failure,” columnist Catherine Porter writes in a Toronto Star opinion piece. She says though progress has been made in bringing down the death rate from cholera, educating the population on prevention, and getting people with the disease into treatment more quickly, aid agencies’ funding has “dried up and most have ended their cholera programs.” She continues, “In most instances, the Haitian government has not picked up the work that had been done by departing aid agencies. … For its part, the Haitian government has focused on surveillance and prevention — plastering the city with posters about hand-washing and disinfecting water.”