Cholera, a disease that has prevailed since the 19th century, is more dominant in some parts of the world than in others. As of 2022, the casualties as a result of cholera in Africa continue. A stronger global response is necessary to properly address cholera in Africa.
7 Facts About Cholera in Africa
- Lack of access to sanitation and clean water in Africa exacerbates cholera. According to UNICEF, as of March 2022, in Africa, 418 million people are without basic drinking water services, 779 million are without basic sanitation and 839 million Africans live without access to basic hygiene facilities.
- Africa has the highest number of cholera casualties. The African region reports higher numbers of cholera deaths than any other region. A lack of access to clean water and proper sanitation as well as inadequate access to timely health care services contributes to the high burden of cholera cases in Africa. In 2022, Somalia, Cameroon and Malawi noted the highest cases of cholera in Africa. According to The Conversation, “between 2014 and 2021 Africa accounted for 21% of cholera cases and 80% of deaths reported globally.”
- Shortages of the oral cholera vaccines impact cholera in Africa. Currently, the world faces a global shortage of oral cholera vaccines as facilities only produce about 2.5 million doses a month, the maximum capacity for production. To resolve this issue, global cholera vaccine production must significantly expand. Since 2013, mass treatment campaigns have administered more than 50 million doses of the vaccine. According to the World Health Organization (WHO) in 2022, “Of the total 36 million doses forecast to be produced in 2022, 24 million have already been shipped for preventive (17%) and reactive (83%) campaigns and an additional 8 million doses were approved by the [International Crisis Group] for the second round [of] emergency vaccination in [four] countries, illustrating the dire shortage of the vaccine.”
- Displaced populations in Africa are vulnerable to cholera. Displacement in Africa is common due to several outbreaks of conflicts and violence in several African nations, such as Somalia, Ethiopia and Nigeria. Displaced persons are more susceptible to food and water contamination and typically lack access to clean water and proper sanitation.
- Cholera in Africa comes at a high economic cost. In 2015, estimates indicated that more than 1 million cholera incidents in 44 African nations led to an economic cost of $130 million as a result of cholera-related illness and the necessary treatments.
- The DOVE Project. The DOVE (Delivering Oral Vaccine Effectively) project, which ran from 2012 to 2019, aimed to ensure that people worldwide with the highest risks of contracting cholera received an oral cholera vaccine. Over five years, a cholera vaccine can decrease one’s risk of cholera infection by between 65% and 75%. The project received funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and its main implementing partner was the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.
- Recent efforts to address cholera in Africa. In January 2023, Red Cross Kenya launched a three-month-long initiative to support the Kenyan government’s efforts to control and manage cholera outbreaks considering the rising number of cholera-related deaths in Kenya. The Red Cross “will strengthen surveillance at the community level as a report from the department shows that the disease is spreading to the outskirts of Bura town,” according to the Kenya News Agency. The Red Cross will also provide training to more than 160 volunteers on cholera prevention and management and will “conduct door-to-door and community-wide sensitization on cholera prevention.” Furthermore, the Red Cross will utilize radio broadcasts to raise awareness and will also educate chiefs and authorities in villages about cholera. The Red Cross will secure the supplies necessary to manage the outbreak and will employ the services of medical personnel to help with the initiative.
Addressing cholera in Africa requires greater political commitment and more significant funding. Furthermore, global production of the oral cholera vaccine must be ramped up. It is critical for countries to secure proper water and sanitation systems for communities and establish a disease-preparedness response before outbreaks occur. As communities living in conditions of poverty face higher risks of cholera, leaders must address poverty in order to curb the spread of this disease and others.
– Robin Kalellis