One billion people risk catching cholera, says WHO

One billion people risk catching cholera, says WHO
Credit: Yann Forget / Creative Commons

The World Health Organisation (WHO) warned on Friday that one billion people worldwide are at risk of being infected with cholera, calling for additional means to be put into tackling the disease.

"There is a pandemic killing the poor before our eyes, and we know exactly how to stop it," UNICEF’s senior advisor Jérôme Pfaffmann Zambruni explained, "but we need more support and less inertia from the global community."

His colleague at the WHO, Health Emergency Officer Henry Gray, explained that the disease, which causes violent diarrhoea and vomiting and can be particularly dangerous for young children, is spreading like wildfire in the absence of adequate sanitation and lack of clean water.

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So far this year, 24 countries have reported cholera outbreaks, up from 15 by mid-May last year. Countries that are usually unaffected are now falling victim to cholera, and the mortality rate far exceeds the usual 1%. Gray added that "as the number of countries affected by cholera increases, the resources available for prevention and care are more dispersed."

According to the WHO, vaccination campaigns have been severely hampered, with only eight million doses of an oral vaccine available, out of the 18 million that were requested last year. The WHO has also been forced to recommend a single dose of the vaccine instead of two to save more people but at the risk of protecting them for less time.

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