Nigeria is in the midst of its worst cholera outbreak in recent years, with nearly 40,000 cases and more than 1,500 deaths reported since the start of the year, the United Nations reported today.
The number of cases so far in 2010 is nearly three times the total for all of last year and 7 times that of 2008, according to the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF). The Red Cross estimates that women and children account for 80 per cent of this year’s cases.
Although the spread of cholera seems to have been largely contained, new cases are still being reported from already-affected states, especially in Nigeria’s northeast.
Cholera is an acute intestinal infection picked up through contaminated food or water. It can result in diarrhoea that can lead to severe dehydration and even death without prompt treatment.
The fatality rate from the disease is 4.5 per cent overall in Nigeria, but the proportion of affected people dying of cholera is above 10 per cent in states that are either severely flooded or are home to large numbers of internally displaced persons (IDPs). The rate has reached 20 per cent in Plateau, 17 per cent in Sokoto and 11 per cent in Gombe.
UNICEF is supporting efforts to promote hygiene and is supplying camps and flood-affected communities with supplies to treat cholera.
The UN World Health Organization (WHO) attributed the unusually high cholera incidence to seasonal factors, combined with poor hygiene conditions and population movements in the area, which is regularly affected by small outbreaks.
Together with health partners, the agency is providing technical support to Nigeria’s Ministry of Health.