Home » UN raises alarm as cholera threatens one billion people from Nigeria, 42 countries

UN raises alarm as cholera threatens one billion people from Nigeria, 42 countries

by Hadiza Musa Yusuf
0 comment 2 minutes read

The World Health Organization (WHO) and the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) have issued a joint statement raising alarm over the resurgence of cholera outbreaks in 43 countries, including Nigeria.

The UN agencies on Friday reported an increasing number of cholera cases and expressed concern that the outcome for patients is worse compared to a decade ago.

UNICEF’s Head of Public Health Emergency unit, Jérôme Pfaffmann Zambruni, lamented that the pandemic is disproportionately affecting the poor. 

Echoing the bleak outlook, WHO data reveals that while 15 countries reported cholera cases by May 2022, the number has already risen to 24 countries by mid-May 2023, with expectations of further increases due to seasonal shifts in cholera cases. 

Henry Gray, WHO’s incident manager for the global cholera response, warned that despite previous progress in controlling the disease, there is a risk of regression.

The UN health agency estimates that one billion people in the affected countries are at risk of cholera, with children under five being particularly vulnerable. 

“The mortality ratio of cholera is alarmingly high, with case fatality rates in Malawi and Nigeria reaching three percent this year, exceeding the acceptable one percent threshold.

“Southeastern Africa is facing significant challenges, with cholera infections spreading in countries such as Malawi, Mozambique, South Africa, Tanzania, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.

“The devastation caused by Cyclone Freddy earlier this year, which displaced 800,000 people in Malawi and Mozambique and disrupted healthcare services, has exacerbated the vulnerability of these communities to cholera outbreaks.”

The UN agencies attribute the spread of the disease to a combination of factors including climate change, inadequate investment in water, sanitation, and hygiene services, and in some cases, armed conflict. 

While vaccines exist to protect against cholera, the supply is insufficient to meet the growing demand. 

The WHO reports that out of the 18 million doses of vaccines requested globally, only eight million have been made available. 

Doubling the production of doses by 2025 is planned, but it may not be sufficient if the current trend continues.

To address the escalating cholera threat, the WHO is launching a 12-month Strategic Preparedness, Response, and Readiness Plan, requiring $160 million, while UNICEF has issued a Call to Action for $480 million. 

The combined response plan will cover 40 countries facing acute crises and include coordination, infection surveillance and prevention, vaccination, treatment, and improvements in water, sanitation, and hygiene infrastructure.


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