Plan works to prevent a potential cholera ‘catastrophe’ in Niger
Plan is responding to cholera in Niger, which has spread to three new areas within recent weeks. The Ministry of Health has reported that the number of cases has topped 2,000 - which is more than a 400% increase over the same period in 2011. In the last two weeks, the number of children and women becoming infected with cholera has increased to more than 50 per day. Health authorities believe river water is a source of infection for this waterborne disease.
Niger is facing a triple disaster: A food and nutritional crisis affecting 5.4 million people with a looming locust invasion, a refugee crisis, and now cholera.
“The worse affected area is Tillaberi, which is the region most affected by the food crisis and home to tens of thousands of Malian refugees,” said Plan’s Regional Disaster Manager for West Africa Roland Berehoudougou.
Mr. Berehoudougou said that with the start of the rainy season a further increase in the disease is anticipated.
Dr. Unni Krishnan, one of Plan's disaster response experts, said that cholera is totally preventable and does not have to end in death.
“Cholera discriminates against children; it hits them hard and fast. However, dealing with cholera is not rocket science, simple preventable measures such as using clean water, proper sanitation and public health measures can make the difference between life and death,” Dr Krishnan said, adding that “within the context of a food and nutrition crisis, cholera should be a top priority.”
Emergency Response Manager of Plan Niger, Mamoudou Madougou, said that his office is sparing no effort to ensure that the disease does not reach the refugees camps in the Tillaberi Department.
“The town of Ayourou in Tillaberi, where the largest refugee camp is located, has been declared to be infected with cholera. The disease has not reached camp but is just eight kilometers away from the closest infected area. If the disease reaches the camp and the situation degenerates, it would quickly become catastrophic,” he said.
“Both Malians and Nigeriens children who are weakened by the food crisis are especially vulnerable to cholera which can kill them within a matter of hours unless treated. Plan is providing water disinfectants and other public health measures to assist the government with the control of the disease. In addition, we are helping to educate the public on how they can combat it.”
Plan is currently appealing for funds to finance the cholera emergency response.
Acting quickly is a key to stopping the tide of cholera.