The Red Cross on Thursday said there was an urgent need for more funds to help contain the biggest cholera epidemic in Sierre Leone in decades, which so far has killed at least 271 people.
"Although the cholera numbers are now stabilising ... this is not the time to pull back," said Amanda McClelland, an emergency health advisor for the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC).
Speaking to reporters in Geneva, she cautioned that the cases were still spreading in districts and distant villages, down towards the Liberian border.
As of September 17, 18,919 cases had been reported across the country since the beginning of the year, with 273 deaths confirmed, according to the World Health Organisation's coordinator for the control of epidemic diseases, William Augusto Perea Caro.
"It is the largest epidemic we have had of cholera in Africa this year," he told the Geneva news conference.
Whereas the disease usually appears at the start of the rainy season in June or July, this year cases were reported at the beginning of the year and have spread rapidly in the densely-populated capital Freetown.
Poor hygiene and living conditions have contributed to the spread, leaving thousands stricken with vomiting, diarrhoea and stomach cramps and overwhelming Sierra Leone's health system.
On a positive note, the epidemic seemed to be winding down in Freetown and in the hard-hit coastal areas, Caro said, pointing out that there now were only about 100 cases reported each week, compared to more than 2,000 a week at the beginning of August.
But the disease was continuing to spread in the south and southwest of the country, he warned.