20 September, 2012
Latest report from the African Press Organization (APO) says that with cholera cases now reported in all 13 districts of Sierra Leone, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) have launched an emergency appeal to help contain the spread of the disease within the country and across the West Africa region.
As of 16 September, 18,508 cases of cholera have been reported and 271 deaths have been confirmed, representing a continuing and significant rise since the outbreak was reported two months ago.
This is the largest cholera outbreak seen in Sierra Leone since the pandemic hit the country from 1970 to 1971.
There is still concern, however, that these numbers do not fully reflect the reality of the situation on the ground, as some cases in rural areas are not being recorded, and not all health centres in the affected areas provide regular reports.
The IFRC Emergency Appeal seeks 2,620,796 Swiss francs (dollar exchange value) to assist 2,000,000 indirect and 1,539,206 direct beneficiaries for the next six months.
The funding will help support the Sierra Leone Red Cross Society, which has already deployed over 700 volunteers to work with communities at risk and provide cholera awareness and hygiene promotion activities.
The outbreak and spread is connected to poor sanitation, the effects of monsoon rains and migration from affected areas.
In many areas there are acute shortages of fresh water, meaning populations have to rely on water sources that may be contaminated.
Warnings of more heavy rain and possible floods are still in place and will continue to hamper efforts to control the spread, especially in the areas in and around Freetown, where conditions are extremely poor.
Freetown has large areas of urban poverty, poor sanitation, intermittent access to a degraded piped water system and overcrowding. It is also the hub for regional travel.
“Cholera is, and will continue to be a significant disease burden, especially in Africa while inequities in access to basic services exist,“ says Amanda McClelland, IFRC Emergency Health Advisor.
“Outbreaks of cholera will not stop over night, but with a focus on prevention through improved access for all to water and sanitation, progress can be made. If millions of people, particularly in west and central Africa lack access to clean water and basic health care services, then the Red Cross will struggle to respond to the number of outbreaks we are seeing. Cholera response and prevention needs urgent funding and we hope this appeal will be well supported.”
Just ten days ago, WASH-NET (Sierra Leone) reported a rapid and significant rise in the epidemic. It said that on the 3rd September, 2012, the cumulative number of reported cases in Sierra Leone stood at 15,834, including 251 deaths.
WASH-NET said also that; all but one of the 13 districts nationwide are now affected (only the eastern district of Kailahun had not reported any case by 3 September), representing a total of 5,595,206 affected individuals – the total population of the 12 districts.
The number of new cases reported on Week 35 (1,908) was down compared to the three previous weeks, but was much higher than before the peak of Mid-August (2,139 cases on Week 32, ending 12 August). The fatality ratio of 1.58 was also slowly decreasing.
The Western Area, including Freetown, continued to represent about 50 per cent of the national caseload and the proportion was higher on Week 35, with 58 per cent of the new cases.
Districts affected early this year such as Kambia and Port Loko reported significant drops in new cases, while more recently affected areas (Bonthe, Kono) reported rising figures.
28 partners – national and international – are contributing to the various aspects of the response – surveillance, case management, Wash activities, social mobilization- in all affected areas.
The funding gap as at the beginning of September, 2012, was about $3.2 million, out of a total of $10,679,104 budgeted cost; comprising of $2.8 million for Health, $6.8 million for WASH and $1.07 million for social mobilization.
Current donors are the CERF, ECHO, DFID, Irish Aid and OFDA.