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Business News/ News / World/  WHO warns of Cholera outbreak in Africa, cases rise exponentially
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WHO warns of Cholera outbreak in Africa, cases rise exponentially

According to the World Health Organization, cholera cases are exponentially increasing across Africa, with infections in only the month of January being one-third of what they would be in all of 2022

A patient suffering cholera symptoms receives treatment at a clinic run by Doctors Without Borders in the Cite Soleil neighborhood days after Haiti police blocked streets and broke into the airport during a protest demanding justice for fellow police officers killed by armed gangs, in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, (REUTERS)Premium
A patient suffering cholera symptoms receives treatment at a clinic run by Doctors Without Borders in the Cite Soleil neighborhood days after Haiti police blocked streets and broke into the airport during a protest demanding justice for fellow police officers killed by armed gangs, in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, (REUTERS)

Africa is facing an exponential rise in cholera cases, with infections in the single month of January already at a third of the level reached in the whole of 2022, according to the World Health Organization.

Climate change, armed conflict and large gaps in vaccination due to the Covid-19 pandemic have added to the risk of cholera outbreaks in communities that have low pre-existing immunity. If the current trend continues, this may be the worst year for cholera in Africa in more than a decade.

Ten African countries have reported outbreaks, with about 26,000 cases and 660 deaths since the beginning of the year, the WHO said in a statement Thursday. The bulk of these have been in Malawi, which is experiencing its worst outbreak on record.

“We are witnessing a worrying scenario where conflict and extreme climatic events are worsening the triggers of cholera and increasing its toll on lives," said Matshidiso Moeti, the WHO’s regional director for Africa.

Rapid rises in cholera cases usually coincide with the rainy season, but the water-borne diarrheal disease is also spreading in Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia even as those countries experience a prolonged drought.

That has left millions of people in dire need of assistance. The WHO has given $6 million to Kenya, Malawi and Mozambique for their emergency response. Burundi, Cameroon, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Nigeria have also reported cases.

Efforts to contain the disease are also being hampered by a lack of vaccines, which led the WHO and its partners to limit all reactive oral cholera vaccine campaigns to a single dose in October. Further surges in cholera outbreaks risk deepening the shortage, the WHO said.

While cholera is an acute infection that can spread rapidly, most people can be treated successfully through prompt administration of oral rehydration solution or intravenous fluids. Africa’s average case fatality ratio is about 3%, which compares with 2.3% in 2022 and 2.1% in Haiti’s most recent cholera outbreak.

“Every death due to cholera is preventable," said Moeti. “This disease is much a health challenge as it is a development one."

Cholera outbreaks spread to countries outside Africa last year, including Pakistan and Haiti.

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Published: 09 Feb 2023, 08:43 PM IST
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