Kenya! Cholera threat looms large among UN-listed countries?!

On Saturday May 20, 2023, the world was shocked by news from the United Nations about the spread of cholera. The UN declared its inability to combat cholera outbreaks and reported that the situation was rapidly deteriorating. The organization warned that one billion people in 43 countries are at risk of cholera. Despite the relatively easy methods of prevention and treatment, this disease could become a “pandemic killing the poor”.

Reports show that Malawi and Mozambique are the most affected countries this year, with another nine countries in a state of “acute crisis”: Burundi, Cameroon, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, Syria, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.

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The UN, through the World Health Organization (WHO) and Unicef, is calling for a massive sum of $640 million to fight cholera. The organization warns against a “cholera catastrophe” if immediate action is not taken. WHO estimates that one billion people across 43 countries are at risk of cholera, which can be contracted from a bacterium transmitted via contaminated food or water. This bacterium leads to diarrhoea and vomiting and is particularly dangerous to young children.

UNICEF’s public health emergency unit head, Jerome Pfaffmann Zambruni, called the rise in cases “a wake-up call”, stating that there is a pandemic killing the poor, but we have the tools to stop it. He called for more support and less inertia from the global community. Although cholera can be treated with simple oral rehydration and antibiotics for more severe cases, many lack access to such treatment. Outbreaks can be prevented by ensuring access to clean water and improved surveillance.

Gray, the UN health agency’s incident manager for the global cholera response, blamed the rise in cases on poverty, conflict, climate change, and population displacements. He indicated that with the increasing number of affected countries, resources that were available for prevention and response are now thinly spread. The solution is long-term investment in wastewater infrastructure.

There is also a shortage of vaccines, with only eight million out of 18 million oral cholera vaccine doses being made available this year, bringing prevention campaigns to a halt. Although the number of available doses could double by 2025 and then double again by 2027, the lack of funds for rapid response will cost lives that could have been saved.

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