Cholera spreads on Sierra Leone’s ‘wettest month’

Cholera vaccine. The government of Sierra Leone and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies are appealing to the international community to help stem the cholera outbreak in the African nation. Photo by: Lars Kristian Flem / CC BY-NC

The government of Sierra Leone is appealing to the international community to help stem an outbreak of cholera in the African nation, which has become a national emergency.

The funding amount has yet to be determined, but President Ernest Bai Koroma has set up a task force to prepare the needed budget, The Associated Press reports.

Cholera cases surged in July, just five months after an epidemic spread in the districts of Port Loko, Puhehun and Kambia, where a new outbreak reportedly started. With 176 deaths and 13,000 people infected — and maybe more — the country’s Ministry of Health and Sanitation declared the disease an epidemic in eight of Sierra Leone’s 14 districts.

There is fear the epidemic will continue to plague the country — and fast — through August, the middle of the rainy season and the “wettest month” in Sierra Leone, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies noted in its emergency appeal.

Heavy rains and poor and insufficient sanitation facilities have led to the contamination of water sources, IFRC notes.

The organization has appealed for 1.15 million Swiss francs ($1.13 million) to support the Sierra Leone Red Cross Society’s response to the epidemic. The money will be used to distribute educational materials to boost awareness of the epidemic, hold performances for hygiene promotion, chlorinate wells, rehabilitate water sources and build latrines.

The Red Cross has also voiced the need for better coordination among nongovernmental organizations responding to the crisis and for contingency plans in districts that are at “high-risk” of being affected. A “large number” of NGOs in the country do not attend coordination meetings held by the Ministry of Health and Sanitation, according to the IFRC.

A change in hygiene behavior, matched with the provision of improved sanitation and water sources, are needed to prevent future cholera epidemics, IFRC notes.

NGOs responding to the epidemic include Médecins Sans FrontièresOxfamSave the Children and Concern WorldwideUNICEF and the World Health Organization are also working to help stem the crisis.

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About the author

  • Ravelo jennylei

    Jenny Lei Ravelo

    Jenny Lei Ravelo is a Devex Senior Reporter based in Manila. She covers global health, with a particular focus on the World Health Organization, and other development and humanitarian aid trends in Asia Pacific. Prior to Devex, she wrote for ABS-CBN, one of the largest broadcasting networks in the Philippines, and was a copy editor for various international scientific journals. She received her journalism degree from the University of Santo Tomas.