“Cholera is a disease of inequity that unduly sickens and kills the poorest and most vulnerable people – those without access to clean water and sanitation.” – Carissa F. Etienne, the Director of Pan American Health Organization.
Profuse vomiting, diarrhea and leg cramps, followed by intense dehydration and shock, are all symptoms of cholera. It is a highly contagious waterborne illness that can cause death within hours if left untreated. Cholera is mainly caused by drinking unsafe water, having poor sanitation and inadequate hygiene, all of which allow the toxigenic bacteria Vibrio Cholerae to infect a person’s intestine.
While cholera can be treated successfully through simple methods, such as replacing the lost fluid from excessive diarrhea, there are still many people around the globe struggling with the disease. There are 2.9 million cases and 95,000 deaths each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
The countries that have the greatest risk of a cholera outbreak are the ones that are going through poverty, war and natural disasters. These factors cause poor sanitation and crowded conditions, which help the spread of the disease.
Yemen is known for being one of the countries with the most Cholera cases. The number of cholera cases in Yemen has been increasing since January 2018; the cumulative reported cases from January 2018 to January 2020 is 1,262,722, with 1,543 deaths. The number of cases in Yemen marked 1,032,481 as of 2017, which was a sharp increase from the 15,751 cases and 164 deaths in 2016. On a positive note, the numbers showed a decrease by February 19, 2020; 56,220 cases were recorded, with 20 associated deaths.
The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC)
The DRC is another country with a high number of Cholera cases. There were 30,304 suspected cases of cholera and 514 deaths in 2019. Although the number of 2019 cases was smaller than that of 2017 (56,190 cases and 1,190 deaths), the 2019 data showed an increase from 2018 (27,269 cases and 472 deaths). As of May 13, 2020, 10,533 cases and 147 deaths were reported; most of these reported cases originated from Lualaba regions, Haut Katanga and North and South Kivu.
Somalia also stands as one of the countries with the most Cholera cases. From December 2017 to May 30, 2020, there were 13,528 suspected cholera cases and 67 associated deaths in Somalia. These reported cases are from regions of Hiran, Lower Shabelle, Middle Shabelle and Banadir.
Other than the three countries listed above, there are many others that are also going through Cholera outbreaks. Uganda reported a new Cholera outbreak in the Moroto district in May 2020; a month later, 682 cases and 92 deaths have been reported. Burundi also declared a new cholera outbreak this past March; 70 new cases were reported.
Helping Cholera Outbreaks
Many non-profit organizations like UNICEF are constantly working towards helping these countries and many more. A good example of a country that has shown a great decrease in cholera cases following external aid is Haiti.
Haiti experienced the first large-scale outbreak of cholera with over 665,000 cases and 8,183 deaths. After a decade of efforts to fight against cholera, the country recently reported zero new cases of cholera for an entire year. An example of how UNICEF helped Haiti is by supporting the Government’s Plan for Cholera Elimination and focusing on rapid response to diarrhea cases. However, the country still needs to keep effective surveillance systems and remain as a cholera-free country for two more years to get validation from the World Health Organization (WHO) of the successful elimination of the disease.
– Alison Choi