News from Africa

Emergency Appeal launched to prevent escalation of cholera outbreak in Sierra Leone

Health

Témoignages.re / 20 September 2012

With cholera cases now reported in all 13 districts of Sierra Leone, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) has launched an emergency appeal to help contain the spread of the disease within the country and across the West Africa region.

As of 16 September, 18,508 cases of cholera have been reported and 271 deaths have been confirmed, representing a continuing and significant rise since the outbreak was reported two months ago. This is the largest cholera outbreak seen in Sierra Leone since the pandemic hit the country from 1970 to 1971. There is still concern, however, that these numbers do not fully reflect the reality of the situation on the ground, as some cases in rural areas are not being recorded, and not all health centres in the affected areas provide regular reports.

The IFRC Emergency Appeal seeks 2,620,796 Swiss francs (dollar exchange value) to assist 2,000,000 indirect and 1,539,206 direct beneficiaries for the next six months. The funding will help support the Sierra Leone Red Cross Society, which has already deployed over 700 volunteers to work with communities at risk and provide cholera awareness and hygiene promotion activities.

The outbreak and spread is connected to poor sanitation, the effects of monsoon rains and migration from affected areas. In many areas there are acute shortages of fresh water, meaning populations have to rely on water sources that may be contaminated.

Warnings of more heavy rain and possible floods are still in place and will continue to hamper efforts to control the spread, especially in the areas in and around Freetown, where conditions are extremely poor. Freetown has large areas of urban poverty, poor sanitation, intermittent access to a degraded piped water system and overcrowding. It is also the hub for regional travel.

“Cholera is, and will continue to be a significant disease burden, especially in Africa while inequities in access to basic services exist.“ says Amanda McClelland, IFRC Emergency Health Advisor.

“Outbreaks of cholera will not stop over night, but with a focus on prevention through improved access for all to water and sanitation, progress can be made. If millions of people, particularly in west and central Africa lack access to clean water and basic health care services, then the Red Cross will struggle to respond to the number of outbreaks we are seeing. Cholera response and prevention needs urgent funding and we hope this appeal will be well supported.”

GENEVA, Switzerland, September 20, 2012/African Press Organization (APO)/

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