Via OCHA: Niger: Hit by a food crisis, Tillabéry now faces a cholera epidemic. Excerpt:
Humanitarian organizations warn that western Niger’s Tillabéry region could see a drastic increase in cholera cases if the response is not scaled up urgently. In a region already affected by a severe food crisis and hosting a large refugee population, more than 3,000 cholera cases and over 60 deaths have been recorded along the Niger River this year.
“This is three times the number of cases registered throughout the entire country in 2011. At this rate, we should be prepared for at least 9,000 cases by December,” said Innocent Nzeyimana, the World Health Organization (WHO) Emergencies Manager in Niger.
OCHA, WHO and UNICEF have taken the lead in coordinating the response to the epidemic with local authorities and other humanitarian partners. In addition to operating treatment centres, aid workers are distributing water-purification products such as Aquatab and PUR to families and helping them treat their water supply.
“But that is not enough,” said the Chief Medical Officer of the Tillabéry Health District, Saley Daouda. “You show them how to do it. They would do it for you. But once you leave, they would just go back to their old ways. Some complain about the taste of the purified water, and others just return to using the contaminated water.”
Parts of the Niger River are made of tiny islands where people live without clean drinking water and proper latrines, Daouda explained. About half of the region’s rural population live on the islands and use the surrounding water for various purposes— drinking, bathing and laundry. He added that only one in 10 people in the area have access to clean drinking water.
“With high levels of water contamination and inadequate sanitation, our area is so prone to cholera. We’ve had cases in 2010 and 2011, but this time it is really getting serious.”