Cholera Crisis In Africa

Cholera Crisis In Africa
Water source near Shimbirale’s internally displaced people’s camp, Somaliland © Norwegian Refugee Council / Adrienne Surprenant

Cholera is a preventable and easily treatable disease that attacks the digestive system causing diarrhoea and dehydration. But, without treatment, death can occur within hours. It spreads in places with inadequate water treatment, poor sanitation, and inadequate hygiene.

“Conflict in Yemen, Somalia and South Sudan has ruined health sectors and public water and sanitation networks, spreading cholera to many places where we have not seen it before,” said Jan Egeland, Secretary General of the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC). “Cholera in 2017 is easily preventable and should belong only in the history books. Its return as a major killer today is an outrage.” So far, the deadly disease has hit about 300 000 people in Yemen, Somalia, South Sudan and other countries.

  • Yemen is worst hit with cholera having claimed 1 500 lives across the country in just two months. More than 250 000 suspected cases of the deadly disease have been recorded, with over 200 new cases every hour. War and a drastically shrinking economy continue to cause devastating food shortages and widespread malnutrition in the country leaving many Yemenis weakened and more vulnerable to disease. Millions in Yemen now live without access to clean water, sanitation or health services. (WHO)
Jammuria and Wasa fetching water near Shimbirale’s IDP camp in Somaliland © NRC / Adrienne Surprenant
  • Somalia is experiencing its largest outbreak of cholera in five years, with 763 deaths and 48 607 people diagnosed with cholera since January 2017. (UNOCHA)
  • In South Sudan, 163 people died from cholera and 4 932 cases were reported in 2017, compared to zero cases recorded during the same period in 2016. Still recovering from famine, this is the first time a cholera outbreak is continuing over the dry season since the country’s independence. (UNOCHA)

Nearby countries are also affected. According to the Kenya Ministry of Health, four people have died in Kenya from cholera, with a total of 146 infected as of 21 May 2017. In Ethiopia, 780 people have died from Acute Watery Diarrhoea. A total of 35 665 cases were recorded, mostly in eastern regions of the country, according to UNOCHA. Progress is being made in Ethiopia, where the number of cases has dropped 88 per cent from April to end of May 2017. “Civilians, many of them children, are not dying from war wounds, but from a preventable disease. We need clean water and sanitation for hard-hit communities and increased funding for the medical response, so that healthcare staff will have the tools and medicines they need to halt this cholera crisis,” said Egeland.

Sharing water resources with the animals in parts of Dollo district in the Gedo region in Somalia increases the risks of waterborne diseases © NRC / Adrienne Surprenant

NRC programmes in affected countries

  • The NRC has been present in Yemen since 2012 and currently delivers humanitarian support covering food security, shelter, education and water, sanitation and hygiene progammes.
  • Present in Somalia since 2004, the NRC currently delivers humanitarian support covering food security, cash relief, education and water and sanitation programmes.
  • In South Sudan since 2004, the NRC has drilled borehole wells, distributed hygiene kits, and conducted hygiene promotion activities in high-risk areas for cholera. Related programmes include food security, livelihoods and education.
  • Present in Kenya since 2007, the NRC currently delivers humanitarian support to the country in the form of food security, livelihoods, education and water, sanitation and hygiene programmes.
  • The NRC has been present in Ethiopia since 2011 and currently delivers humanitarian support that includes food security, livelihoods, education and water, sanitation and hygiene programmes.
Women collect water provided by water trucking activities of the NRC in the Dollo district of Somalia © NRC / Adrienne Surprenant

Source and images: NRC