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Death toll rising amid cholera epidemic in Cameroon

Almost 8,000 people have been diagnosed with the disease so far as aid organisations struggle to contain the outbreak.

File photo
File photo

ALMOST 8,000 CASES of cholera have been reported in the African country of Cameroon, with one Irish charity calling the epidemic a “forgotten emergency”.

More than 250 people have died in the last three months from the disease, which has established a presence in nine of the country’s ten regions. In some areas one in every fifteen people who catches cholera will die, according to international development agency Plan Ireland.

The organisation is leading a drive to educate residents about food and hand hygiene practices in the hope of containing the outbreak.In a statement, it said that even though Cameroon is far more stable than many other countries in sub-Saharan Africa, the government’s resources are being sorely tested. Some towns still have just one doctor for every 8,000 people.

“This is not a ‘flies in their eyes’ story. Cameroon is a functioning, stable country,” Dualta Roughneen, water and sanitation advisor for Plan Ireland, said. He added that the mobility of people and products was helping to spread the disease. “I heard of one man who purchased mangos in one area, which had come in contact with the bacteria and transported them over 100km to facilitate a new outbreak. Another story is of someone who attended a funeral of a cholera victim and returned home, bringing cholera with him.”

One medical officer in the Bibemi district, Dr Janvier Djofack, said the disease is easily preventable but there is a severe shortage of simple resources – such as bleach to use as a disinfectant. “The ways to prevent cholera are simple,” he said. “However we need support to allow us to be faster than the disease and stop it from taking any more lives.”

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Michael Freeman

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