- The cholera epidemic along River Niger in Mali is increasing, according to local media. By now, more than 2,000 cholera cases have been registered and some 117 Malians have died. The large spread of the epidemic makes it difficult to control.
Malian media, quoting local medical sources, say that the current cholera epidemic already has caused 2,016 registered infections, including 117 deaths. The epidemic is spreading along River Niger, the country's lifeline.
Most of the 2,016 cases have been registered in the regions of Ségou, Mopti, Timbouctou and Sikasso. Only the latter region is not placed at River Niger, which is held responsible for the spread of the disease. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), there is a total number of 13 clusters affected by the current cholera outbreak.
Cholera started spreading in August 2003 in Mali. It was associated to sewage into River Niger from the outskirts of Bamako, the Malian capital. In the coming months, the water-born disease was registered in several cities and towns several hundreds of kilometres down-river. Recently, the epidemic also has reached Sikasso, a regional town far away from the river and close to Burkina Faso.
The WHO has been involved in trying to control the epidemic since last year, but in its latest Mali update says this now was "very difficult due to the spread of several clusters of cases throughout the country."
Only since the beginning of 2004, WHO had registered a total of 280 new cases with 33 deaths. This represents a relatively high case fatality rate of 11.78 percent, the UN agency warned. WHO is providing medical supplies and specific technical assistance to control the outbreak.
In November last year, the international organisation Médecins Sans Frontičres (MSF) warned that up to half a million Malians were at risk by the cholera outbreak. The local population at River Niger are mainly nomadic fishermen who rely on the river water for drinking, cooking and washing, MSF explained.
Malian health authorities meanwhile engage in awareness campaigns, directed at making people avoid unclean water. The Ministry of Health together with the armed forces have engaged "Surveillance Brigades" to control the epidemic, recently announced Minister Kéita Rokiatou N'Diaye as she was visiting the field work operations.
There are currently several cholera outbreaks in West and Central Africa - all connected to unclean water intake and extraordinary rains. In the Togolese capital, Lomé, cholera has caused 661 cases and 37 deaths. In Douala, Cameroon's largest city, more than 20 persons have died and several hundred have been infected by the ongoing cholera epidemic. A new outbreak also recently was reported from the Congolese capital, Kinshasa.
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