Christian Aid partner organisations in Sierra Leone are scaling up their community health work by introducing emergency health education programmes in response a cholera epidemic that has led to more than 11,500 cases and claimed more than 200 lives.
The incidence of the disease has escalated fiercely across ten of Sierra Leone’s 13 districts since the start of the rainy season in mid-July after the first cases were reported in January.
President Ernest Bai Koroma has declared the epidemic a national humanitarian emergency.
Jeanne Kamara, Christian Aid’s Sierra Leone country manager said: ‘The people of post-conflict Freetown and the country in general are very frightened indeed as this endemic can spread really fast as many poor people live in damp and over-crowded slums with poor sanitation facilities.
‘The unusually heavy rains have exacerbated the problems and the risk of flooding in vulnerable areas throughout the country is a reality so it is absolutely vital that we get messages about regular hand washing and clean drinking water out there to as many people as we can, as soon as possible,’ she adds.
Christian Aid is working with four local partner organisations in Pujehun, Kenema, Kailahun and Kono districts, to provide health and hygiene promotion via radio and face-to-face education, dissemination of information about cholera, hand washing stations (tippy-taps), waste disposal, distribution of soap and clean water containers, and solar disinfection.
UNICEF and the World Health Organisation (WHO) have confirmed 216 cholera fatalities since the beginning of the year, and the country's health minister has said the outbreak is directly linked to Sierra Leone's past conflict, which saw a massive migration from rural to urban areas where over-population and poor water and sanitation making the problem worse.
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