UN agencies launch global strategy to cut cholera cases

Thursday October 12 2017

A Rohingya refugee receives an oral cholera vaccine from a Bangladeshi volunteer

A Rohingya refugee receives an oral cholera vaccine from a Bangladeshi volunteer at the Thankhali refugee camp in Ukhia district on October 10, 2017. PHOTO | INDRANIL MUKHERJEE | AFP  

By ELIZABETH MERAB
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An ambitious strategy to reduce cholera deaths by 90 per cent by 2030 has been launched by a group of UN agencies.

The new programme — launched by the Global Task Force on Cholera Control, a diverse network of more than 50 UN and international agencies, academic institutions, and NGOs that support countries affected by the disease — is expected to save about 85,500 people every year.

“World Health Organization is proud to be part of this new joint initiative to stop deaths from cholera. The disease takes its greatest toll on the poor and the vulnerable — this is quite unacceptable. This roadmap is the best way we have to bring this to an end,” WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said in a press statement.

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The task force’s new plan, “Ending Cholera: A Global Roadmap to 2030”, recognises that cholera spreads in endemic “hotspots” where predictable outbreaks of the disease occur year after year.

The global roadmap seeks to align resources, share best practices and strengthen partnerships between affected countries, donors and international agencies.

It underscores the need for a coordinated approach to cholera control with country-level planning for early detection and response to outbreaks. By implementing the roadmap, up to 20 affected countries could eliminate cholera by 2030.

According to the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, cholera is an acute, diarrhoeal illness caused by infection of the intestine with the bacterium Vibrio cholerae.

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Researchers have estimated that each year, there are 1.3 to 4 million cases of cholera, and 21,000 to 143,000 deaths worldwide.

In Kenya, the disease has been recurrent since last year, with erratic cases being reported every so often.

So high were the cases that the WHO warned that the outbreak of the disease posed a high risk to the region and a moderate threat globally.