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Cholera kills 1,500 - this time in Nigeria

As Haiti crosses its fingers that its own outbreak stays away from refugee camps, Nigeria succumbs to an epidemic.

A doctor treats a child suffering from cholera, at a village health clinic in Ganjuwa in Nigeria's rural Bauchi State
A doctor treats a child suffering from cholera, at a village health clinic in Ganjuwa in Nigeria's rural Bauchi State
Image: Sunday Alamba/AP

AS THE FAMINE-STRICKEN island nation of Haiti crosses its fingers that its own outbreak of cholera stays away from refugee camps, the United Nations has announced that the virus has claimed over 1,500 lives in Nigeria so far this year – over four times more deaths than the government itself reported two months ago.

PM News Nigeria quotes a UNICEF spokeswoman as saying that it had recorded over 38,000 cases of the virus since the start of the year, which had included 1,555 cases where the infected patient had died from the condition.

80% of the fatalities were women and children, the spokeswoman added, explaining that the epidemic was now hitting its peak.

By comparison, the Nigerian health ministry said only in August that 352 people had died so far in 2010 from the outbreak,

The Washington Post explains that an epidemic of such size would make the current one the worst in the country since 1991, when 7,654 people died from the condition over the year.

The current outbreak began in 2007, brought on by a shortage of clean water which leads people to consume water unknowingly contaminated – typically by human faeces.

In Nigeria’s case, the problem has been exacerbated by heavy rain in rural areas, leading to flooding in parts where safe drinking water and sanitary facilities were already scarce.

It causes vomiting and diarrhoea which in tandem lead to dehydration. While the disease can easily be prevented, it is endemic in nations where overcrowded areas lead to poor sanitation.

UNICEF is helping to fight the outbreak by promoting hygiene and supplying camps and flood-affected communities with medication to treat infected patients.

In Haiti, meanwhile, aid agencies are upping their efforts to contain the epidemic there, fearing that the virus could soon spread to the makeshift slums where 1.3m people have been living since January’s earthquake.

About the author:

Gavan Reilly

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