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Dozens die in cholera outbreak in Sierra Leone

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
August 24th, 2012
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Long the scourge of Haiti, deadly cholera has struck the African nation of Sierra Leone with a vengeance. At least 217 have died as a result of the disease, and there are at least 12,000 reported cases.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - The British-based charity Oxfam says that cases here have reached almost their double emergency thresholds. The number of people affected is "likely to increase significantly in the next month."

A water-borne disease, cholera has spread here due to early rains in such cities as Freetown. The number of reported cases has spiraled from the previous record of 10,000 in 1994. Emergency groups say there has been a spike in reported cholera cases since mid-July and the onset of the rainy season.

Eighty-two deaths have been reported in nearby Guinea, while other cases have been seen in Mali and Niger.

An infection of the small intestine, cholera is contracted by eating or drinking contaminated food or liquids. Causing diarrhea, vomiting and dehydration cholera can kill within hours.

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies have asked for an emergency appeal for $1.14 million. They warn that the outbreak risks sparking a wider health crisis, unless conditions are attacked more aggressively.

"The disease has the potential to cause a serious humanitarian crisis," Amanda McClelland, Emergency Health Coordinator for the IFRC said in a statement.

McClelland explained that the level of aid coverage was still "very low. It is urgent to step up our efforts as the situation is deteriorating quickly ... We need more funds to deliver the most effective response.

"We are projecting more cases considering we have a month more of heavy rainfall," she added.

Health promotion activities include helping affected families prepare oral rehydration solutions and building suitable toilets.

Sidie Yahya Tunis, the spokesman for the Health Ministry citied the expansion of the poor suburbs of Freetown as a factor in the disease's spread.

"It's not just that we have more people in the slums, we have more slum areas in the Western Area (around Freetown) as well," he told the Reuters agency.

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