By Robin Gomes
The number of cholera cases decreased globally by 60% in 2018, the World Health Organization (WHO) said in a report this week. The UN’s health agency regards this as an “encouraging trend” in cholera prevention and control in the world’s major hotspots of the infectious disease, including Haiti, Somalia and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
According to WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the decrease is proof of the increased engagement of countries and shows the vital role of mass cholera vaccination campaigns. “The long-term solution for ending cholera,” he pointed out, “lies in increasing access to clean drinking water and providing adequate sanitation and hygiene”.
Cholera is an acute diarrhoeal infection which is caused by ingesting food or water contaminated with the bacterium Vibro cholerae. It affects both children and adults and can kill within hours if left untreated. WHO estimates that each year cholera infects 1 million to 4 million people and claims up to 143 000 lives.
According to WHO’s new report, there were nearly 500,000 cases of cholera and nearly 3000 deaths in 34 countries in 2918. This represents a significant downward trend in cholera transmission that has continued into 2019.
According to Dr Dominique Legros, who heads WHO’s cholera programme, the decrease in the number of cholera cases appears to be linked to large-scale vaccination campaigns and countries beginning to adopt the Global Roadmap to 2030 strategy in their national cholera action plans. He urged strengthening efforts to engage all cholera-endemic countries in this global strategy to eliminate cholera.
The Global Roadmap aims to reduce cholera deaths by 90% and to eliminate transmission in up to 20 countries by 2030.
The new report shows several countries, including Zambia, South Sudan, Tanzania, Somalia, Bangladesh, and Nigeria have made significant progress in developing national action plans within the framework of the Global Roadmap strategy.
In 2018, WHO country offices worked with governments to respond urgently to major outbreaks in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Nigeria, Uganda, Yemen, Zambia and Zimbabwe. WHO also worked with countries to transition from outbreak response to longer-term cholera control and elimination, in Haiti, United Republic of Tanzania (Zanzibar) and Zambia. (Source: UN News/WHO)