African countries hit by cholera lack resources to control it, UN says
Faced with nearly 500 deaths from the latest outbreaks of cholera in West Africa and with the number of cases still rising, the affected countries lack the resources needed to implement comprehensive control programmes, according to the United Nations World Health Organization (WHO).
WHO said in a paper prepared for a regional meeting of UN agencies and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) convened yesterday in Dakar, Senegal, by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA): “The current West Africa cholera outbreaks are serious, with nearly 500 deaths so far out of over 31,000 reported cases. The trends show that figures are still going up in many countries.”
The bacterial disease can be prevented if adequate control programmes are in place, “but limited resources impede support for a more comprehensive and coherent approach at the local and sub-regional level,” it added.
The acute intestinal infection, caused by ingesting contaminated food or water, can quickly cause severe diarrhoea, vomiting and dehydration leading to death. In highly endemic countries, it is mainly a disease of young children. When it appears, the community must ensure the hygienic disposal of human excrement, hygienic handling of foods and an adequate supply of safe drinking water, WHO said.
So far 488 deaths have been reported out of 31,259 cases in nine countries, it said. The outbreak in Guinea-Bissau is expanding, while the outbreaks in Burkina Faso, Guinea, Mauritania and Niger are not yet under control and are likely to spread to Nigeria, Cameroon and Chad in the next few weeks and to Mali and Senegal by the end of the year, it said.
The country hardest hit is Senegal, with 231 deaths out of 19,863 cases since its outbreak began in January and with 3,541 of those cases having occurred in just the last two months.
In Guinea-Bissau, both the number of deaths and the number of affected persons have nearly doubled in the last two weeks to 172 deaths out of 9,047 cases. The Government appealed for $104,000 in international assistance two weeks ago and donations of medicine have come from France and Portugal, but the country needs additional assistance.
WHO said it is helping to strengthen surveillance capabilities and has sent supplies for case management and the chlorination of water to some of the countries.