Via Reuters AlertNet: Risk of cholera spreading in Mali high, ICRC warns. Excerpt:
A cholera outbreak in northern Mali which has killed two children and infected 47 people is a major concern and the risk of the disease spreading is high, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) says.
The outbreak began earlier this month in Mali's troubled north, where insecurity has deepened since separatist rebels launched a coup in March.
The region is now in the hands of Islamist groups who first fought alongside and then outflanked Tuareg-led rebels that routed government forces there in early April.
Although the spread of cholera has been contained in and around the city of Gao on the Niger river, the risk of the water-borne disease resurfacing especially in towns and villages along the river is high, ICRC said on Friday.
"Any new outbreak would be a disaster, given the dysfunctional state in which many referral healthcare centres find themselves due to the massive departure of skilled staff as a result of the conflict," said Jean-Nicolas Marti, head of ICRC's regional delegation for Mali and Niger.
"In most villages, the hand pumps and wells are no longer working for lack of maintenance and spare parts," he said in a statement. "This places an extra strain on the limited number of pumps still functioning. As a result, a great many people are having to use water from the river."
ICRC said the rainy season, which is under way, would only add to the risk of cholera spreading.
There are also worries about more cases of malaria and diarrhoea since most villages and fishing camps close to the river have limited access to clean drinking water.