See also:
» 27.09.2010 - Aid back to basics: Cash handouts in Niger
» 09.07.2010 - Again, aid to Niger's hungry comes too late
» 21.04.2010 - Hunger aid to Niger, Chad boosted
» 11.02.2010 - International aid appeal launched for Niger
» 25.07.2008 - MSF ordered to halt operations in Niger
» 09.01.2008 - Landmine kills media chief
» 13.09.2006 - Floods wreck fragile livelihoods
» 08.09.2006 - Floods in Niger, Burkina Faso affect 26,000

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Society | Agriculture - Nutrition | Health

Cholera epidemic follows floods

afrol News / IRIN, 26 September - Cholera has claimed 21 lives among 206 infected people in Niger following seasonal rains that have flooded communities and left them unable to cope with a health crisis.

The United Nations has sent emergency aid to Niger following the flooding, which has affected 43,000 people. The government says 10,000 people have lost their homes.

The UN children’s agency, UNICEF, has sent medicine, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has dispatched a team to evaluate the situation, and the World Food Programme (WFP) is also providing assistance. Urgent needs include food, treated mosquito nets and blankets.

A joint task force of the UN, Red Cross and NGOs has been put in place to monitor the cholera epidemic. Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) is overseeing an isolation unit 12 km south of the town Zinder, which is in the far southeast of the country.

“The situation is under control,” said Moussa Fatimata, secretary general of the Public Health Ministry.

He said epidemic management teams had been dispatched to affected regions and residents were receiving education about proper sanitation, especially in terms of potable water, to prevent further spread of the disease.

Cholera is an acute intestinal infection spread by contaminated water or food. It provokes vomiting and diarrhoea and can lead to death within hours. When it occurs in an unprepared community, fatality rates can be as high as 50 percent, according to the WHO. The illness, however, can be easily prevented through proper hygiene and quickly treated with oral re-hydration salts.

Nigerien health authorities said Zinder, 900 km east of the capital, Niamey, was the worst affected. They said eight people died and another 100 with symptoms of vomiting and diarrheoa were taken to a regional hospital centre for treatment.

Health authorities said they registered 141 cases of cholera as of 22 September in the Zinder neighbourhoods of Babban Tapki, Sabongari, Kara-Kara, Djagoundi, Birni and Nassaraoua Idi.

In Madarounfa, 700 km east of Niamey, seven deaths were reported among 44 cases of cholera. In Konni, 400 km east of Niamey, the toll was four dead among 16 registered cases. In Diffa, 1,300 km east of Niamey, two out of five infected people died.

Landlocked Niger, hemmed in by the Sahara desert in north central Africa, is the poorest country in the world, according to the UN's Human Development Index (HDI), which ranks 177 countries according to factors such as access to healthcare, literacy and life expectancy.

Niger’s population has boomed while desertification and soil desalination have stripped the earth of nutrients, meaning thousands of the country's 12 million people regularly fail to grow enough food to feed themselves. As nutrition has slumped, diseases such as polio, measles, cholera and sleeping sickness that nearly have been stamped out in many other sub-Saharan countries have sometimes become epidemic.

Although the Nigerien government spends 12 percent of its GDP on healthcare, according to the HDI, there are still only three doctors per 100,000 people in Niger. Twenty percent of Nigerien children die before their fifth birthday, mostly from malaria.

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