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Cholera Prompts National Emergency in Sierra Leone

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A rise in water and foodborne Cholera cases has prompted officials in Sierra Leone to declare a national emergency. Cholera is an infection that starts in the small intestines and causes cramping, diarrhea, and vomiting. Cases run from mild to severe. A complication that can arise from the infection is severe dehydration which can lead to death if adequate fluids are not accessible.

The cholera outbreak in Sierra Leone has taken the lives of over 200 people since January. More than 10,000 cases have been reported leading to the government’s declaration of a national emergency. According to The Guardian Express, the rates of new cases has accelerated rapidly since the beginning of August.

Sierra Leone is made up of 13 districts. 10 of them are registering cases of cholera. The most heavily affected areas are Western Area and Tonkolili. The President of Sierra Leone has stated that the country is facing a “humanitarian crisis” due to the rapidly spreading cholera epidemic.

Cholera occurs in areas with poor sanitation, crowding, war and famine. Sierra Leone is no stranger to war which leads to all of the right conditions for the disease to spread. The Ministry of Health and Sanitation (MOHS), Médecins sans Frontières (MSF), UNICEF, WHO, and other partners are attempting to deal with the outbreak by working together to prevent and control the spread of the infection. Two of the biggest measures that will aid Sierra Leone will be the implementation of cholera treatment centres and water and sanitation control measures.

WHO said, “All of this is the aftermath of the 11 years rebel war when we had a huge rural-to-urban migration and a huge population clustered in the urban area where adequate provision has not been made for water and sanitation.”

The United Nations has reported that Sierra Leone has a population of six million people and that it has one of the worst health systems in the world. The status is one doctor for every 34,744 people. The cholera epidemic is spreading. The water-borne disease has traveled to Guinea, Mali and Niger. Sixty people have died since February in Guinea.

Despite the declaration of a national emergency in Sierra Leone, WHO does not recommend any travel or trade restrictions.

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