E Outbreak in Chad and Niger
An area rife with conflict and large refugee populations, the Lake Chad region is one especially vulnerable to diseases. The most recent concern is the hepatitis E outbreak in Chad and Niger, which has been declared a stage one emergency by the WHO.

Hepatitis E is caused most often by exposure to fecal-infected water or undercooked meat and thus is prevalent in areas with poor water sanitation resources. Symptoms include a mild fever, reduced appetite and occasional vomiting. As the virus progresses, this becomes jaundice, dark liver, pale stools and sensitivity of the liver. In rare cases, acute liver failure is possible and often leads to death. Though the virus is often overlooked for the better-known hepatitis A, B and C, it is responsible for over 20 million infections and 40,000 deaths worldwide every year

In terms of treatment, infections typically do not require hospitalization, as the symptoms resolve by themselves after four to six weeks. However, in cases where liver failure occurs, hospitalization is required immediately. People with immunodeficiencies and pregnant women are especially at risk, and hospitalization is recommended for these populations.

In Am Timan, Chad, nearly 700 unique cases and 11 deaths occurred between September 2016 and January 2017. Since then, 70 cases have been reported each week. In the Diffa region of Niger, over 1,100 cases and 34 deaths were reported by the end of June. Additional cases have been reported in the large at-risk refugee population. In both countries, the WHO has declared the outbreak an emergency and is working alongside the Minister of Health to identify the epicenter.

The WHO’s investigations into the root of the hepatitis E outbreak in Chad and Niger are the first and most important step in keeping the people of the Lake Chad region safe, but more must be done in the meantime to ensure the health and safety of hundreds of thousands of at-risk people. The organization Medicins Sans Frontieres (Doctors Without Borders) has worked hard to treat the proliferation of cases, but as the epidemic spreads from the city of Am Timan to the surrounding region of Salamat, more needs to be done.

Medicins Sans Frontieres has called for help in water sanitization, but the response was minimal. Due to this, the medical organization has taken it upon themselves to chlorinate 72 water stations in the city. In Diffa, it has treated 27,900 gallons of water and provided sanitation supplies to nearly 17,000 families. In order to curb the Hepatitis E outbreak in Chad and Niger, the WHO and Medicins Sans Frontieres need help. Their good work has mitigated the original outbreak, but money, supplies and volunteers are still needed to create the infrastructure to ensure such an outbreak is prevented in the future.

Connor S. Keowen

Photo: Flickr

Radio Education Program for Lake Chad
Within the Lake Chad basin of Africa, there is a crisis occurring. This crisis includes the increasing rates of famine, floods and militia groups such as Boko Haram which threaten the lives of individuals across Niger, Chad, Cameroon and Nigeria. This situation has displaced 1.3 million children and has made it difficult for students to access schools. However, a new program initiated by UNICEF and Education in Emergencies is providing a radio education program for Lake Chad that will give over 200,000 children potential access to education.

Conflict in Lake Chad has been occurring since 2009, with Boko Haram leading attacks against civilians and using violence to ban schooling. In the past eight years, Boko Haram has closed over 1,200 schools and has murdered over 600 teachers, as well as forcing 19,000 educators to flee. With many schools destroyed and more facing threats, children have no way to safely access education.

The occupancy of Boko Haram, although the primary threat to students, is not the only challenge when it comes to accessing schools. Children also encounter difficulty in mobility due to the rainy season, which causes flooding. This threat is all in combination with overarching threats of famine and water-borne diseases. These factors work together to make achieving an education almost impossible.

The UNICEF-designed radio education program for Lake Chad is an essential service that will educate children in the most rural areas of the country. This innovative program will feature 144 lessons on literacy, numeracy and other critical information. These lessons will be broadcast in French as well as in the local languages of Kanouri, Fulfulde and Hausa. This tool will reach children that have no other way to access schooling.

A significant aspect of this program is that it will be accredited by the governments of Cameroon and Niger. This point means the children using this program will not fall behind in their schooling and may have the potential to receive a certificate validating their success.

The radio education program for Lake Chad will also be bringing communities together, as UNICEF will be encouraging radio listening groups to help children get the most out of each broadcast. This measure will also ensure that adults will allow children to use existing radios and help with guided listening.

Despite the circumstances that currently prevent children from attending school, humanitarian organizations continue to find a way to keep these students learning. This radio education program will provide quality lessons to children that may have otherwise been denied an education entirely, ensuring that education will remain a priority for even the most vulnerable populations.

Kelly Hayes

Photo: Google