The World Health Organisation (WHO) has warned that over one billion people in 43 countries in Africa are at risk of global surge of cholera cases.
Three countries, this week alone, have reported outbreaks, WHO cholera team leader Philippe Barboza revealed.
For the first time, WHO is asking donors for help to fight the outbreaks, he said.
Right now, 22 countries across the world are fighting outbreaks of the acute diarrhoeal infection caused by eating or drinking contaminated food or water. Cholera cases climbed in 2022, following years of falling numbers of cases, and the trend is expected to continue into this year, he said.
He said cases have been reported in five of the six regions where WHO operates. The latest WHO global overview published in early February showed the situation has further deteriorated since 2022.
Poverty, disasters, conflict and climate change consequences continue to be driving factors alongside a lack of access to safe water and sanitation, Dr. Barboza said.
Limited vaccine supplies
“An unprecedented situation requires an unprecedented response,” he said, adding that only 37 million doses are available in 2023.
As a result of the current global surge, WHO is, for the first time ever, appealing to donors to support a $25 million fund to help to address cholera outbreaks and save lives, he said.
Prevention is key, he said, noting that nearly half of the world lacks access to safely managed sanitation.
“Access to safe drinking water and sanitation are internationally recognized human rights. Making these rights a reality will also end cholera.”
While the number of cases had been declining, WHO remains concerned about the current surge. Researchers estimate that every year, there are between 1.3 and 4 million cases and 21,000 to 143,000 deaths worldwide due to the infection.