Q: What is the scale of the problem you are tackling? How does this differ from other outbreaks?
A: The cholera problem is a huge one and started about 35 weeks ago in a few locations and quickly spread to all parts of the country. To date, there are over 15,000 reported cases of infection and nearly 250 reported deaths, a good number of these being children.
A lot of efforts and resources have been made by government, its international partners and the non-governmental organizations to address this national tragedy and emergency. However, these efforts have encountered challenges such as poor road networks to reach out to many communities, the heavy rains at this time of the year facilitating faster spread of the disease and hindering movements of health workers and insufficient resources.
This outbreak is different from other ones because of the speed with which it spread, the ease with which it kills and the scale of the geographical spread of the problem. Cholera, even though can be treated with basic medicines and by maintaining proper hygienic conditions, can be fatal if not detected and treated early. Children are most vulnerable to this outbreak.
The other difference in the current outbreak is that neighbouring Guinea is also affected and with the frequent movement of people across the two borders, this had the propensity for a faster spread of the disease in both countries.
Sierra Leone, and in fact the whole of West Africa, experiences very small scales of cholera outbreaks in the rainy season almost every year. But this is normally localised and of very few numbers and easily contained.