Five United Nations humanitarian agencies are rushing medical supplies and other materials to northern Cameroon, where the country’s worst outbreak of cholera in six years has already claimed at least 155 lives.
Cholera drugs, oral rehydration salts, hygiene kits, surgical gloves, family water kits and educational materials are among the items that have been dispatched, the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) reported today from Yaoundé, the capital.
UNICEF said it is working with the World Health Organization, the UN Population Fund (UNFPA), the World Food Programme (WFP) and the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) – as well as Government ministries and the Red Cross – to bring relief to people in need, particularly women and children.
The agency warned that women and children are especially vulnerable as the outbreak spreads from its current base in Cameroon’s Extreme North and North regions.
This area, which share borders with Nigeria, Chad and the Central African Republic (CAR), is home to an estimated 5 million people and has relatively little clean water or proper sanitation. The situation has been made worse by extensive flooding in the past month.
Ora Musu Clemens-Hope, UNICEF’s representative in Cameroon, said the agency was working closely with the Government to improve the response to the outbreak.
“Four months into this outbreak we are facing the very real possibility of cholera spreading to neighbouring regions and countries,” she said.
Cholera is an acute intestinal infection picked up through contaminated food or water. It can result in diarrhea that can lead to severe dehydration and even death without prompt treatment. The current outbreak, which began in May, has now totalled more than 2,000 confirmed cases, and the fatality rate of over 13 per cent is considered extremely high.