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World Vision responds to Sierra Leone's worst cholera outbreak in more than a decade

World Vision - USA - Wed, 5 Sep 2012 21:46 GMT
Author: Lauren Fisher, World Vision
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  • Aid workers begin handing out cholera prevention kits containing soap, towels, hygiene items
  • World Vision working with government to hit the streets of Freetown, picking up piles of garbage as part of citywide clean-up days

Freetown, SIERRA LEONE (September 5, 2012) — With Sierra Leone facing the worst cholera outbreak since 1998, organizations like World Vision are working with the government to mobilize the community and find high tech solutions to help prevent this deadly disease from spreading further. The government of Sierra Leone has declared a national emergency. More than 15,000 cases, including 251 deaths have been reported as of September 4 and all but one of the 13 districts nationwide are now affected.

“This is an extremely contagious disease, and right now conditions in Sierra Leone are a perfect storm of heavy rain and poor sanitation. For people living in depressed urban areas, the only water they have access to has been turned into a toxic mix of trash and human waste,” said Mattia Koi Dimoh, World Vision’s cholera emergency response coordinator in Sierra Leone. “Indicators right now are nearly double what would qualify as a typical cholera emergency. If we don’t act now, we’re worried the number of those sickened by cholera will increase sharply.”

The unusually heavy rain this year in Sierra Leone has caused severe flooding in the country, especially in low lying areas in the capital. In addition, many people live in crowded slums where there are large amounts of trash and no latrines.

“We’re especially concerned about some of the most vulnerable populations, like children,” Dimoh said. “For them, a disease like cholera is devastating and often quickly fatal, leading to severe dehydration and death within a matter of hours if not properly treated.”

Right now, the government of Sierra Leone is leading the response, with help from development partners like World Vision. To take action World Vision plans to:

  • Educate communities on proper sanitation and hand washing through kids clubs and meetings of traditional leaders and religious leaders
  • Send out prevention messages and alerts over the radio
  • Improve access to clean water by chlorinating water sources, rehabilitating and protecting facilities and handing out water treatment tablets
  • Support communities already affected by providing cholera prevention kits containing soap, hand towels, blankets and other supplies. Support care-givers at cholera treatment units
  • Work with the government to improve case surveillance through training and use of mobile telephones to report cases

The organization is also working with the local civil society group, Health for All Coalition, calling on the government to organize a massive cleaning project around the Freetown. Organizers hope to go street to street, cleaning up the piles of garbage around the city and reinforcing prevention and control messages.

“We hope to see the community come together to join in the fight against cholera. With the help of the government, local and international organizations, we can stop the spread of this disease before more lives are claimed,” Dimoh said.

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