Cholera Outbreaks to End by 2030, -African Health Ministers
African Health Ministers have pledged to implement key strategies that will help in ending cholera outbreaks in the African region by 2030.
It was the 68th session of the World Health Organization’s Regional Committee for Africa on the 28 August in Dakar, Senegal. Forty-seven African countries consequently, adopted the Regional Framework for the Implementation of the Global Strategy for Cholera Prevention and Control.
“Cholera is a symbol of inequity,” said Dr Matshidiso Moeti, the WHO Regional Director for Africa. “It is an ancient disease, which has been eliminated in many parts of the world. Every death from cholera is preventable. We have the know-how and today countries have shown that they have the will to do whatever it takes to end cholera outbreaks by 2030.“
Cholera is a water-borne disease that present as a major global public health problem. “The burden and impact of cholera is greatest in sub-Saharan Africa.” In 2017, over 150,000 cholera cases, more than 3,000 deaths, were reported in 17 countries across Africa. This year again, there has been a spike in cholera cases in places in Africa. “Eight countries are currently battling outbreaks.”
African region is vulnerable to cholera for quite a number of reasons. Ninety-two million persons in Africa still drink water from unsafe sources. In rural areas, piped water is often unavailable and people practice open defecation. Humanitarian crises, climate change, rapid urbanization and population growth are also among notable factors that increase the risk of cholera spreading.
In adopting the Regional Framework, the Health Ministers pledged to reduce the burden of cholera outbreaks by 90%, particularly among vulnerable populations and in humanitarian crises. The Ministers agreed to take evidence-based actions, such as enhancing epidemiological and laboratory surveillance, mapping cholera hotspots, improving access to timely treatment, strengthening cross-border surveillance, promoting community engagement and the use of the Oral Cholera Vaccine (OCV) as well as increasing investments in clean water and sanitation for the most vulnerable communities.
“WHO is working hand in hand with countries, providing key technical expertise and guidance,” said Dr Moeti. “The Oral cholera vaccine has been shown to be highly effective and WHO has facilitated the vaccination of millions of people across Africa. We must continue to expand use of this new strategy.”
From 2013 to 2017, WHO supported 65 cholera vaccination campaigns and provided over 16 million doses of vaccines to 18 countries across the globe, which 11 African countries benefited from. Many of the campaigns in Africa have taken place in the context of a humanitarian crisis or natural disaster.
Many of the risk factors for cholera like poor sanitation and rapid urbanization fall outside of the health sector and so WHO is working with a broad coalition of partners to engage with all relevant sectors to build a comprehensive and sustainable response throughout the region.
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