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Cholera Outbreaks In West Africa

Amid Mounting Cholera Outbreaks In West Africa, UN Convenes Regional Meeting

Faced with an alarming increase in cholera outbreaks in West Africa this summer, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) has convened a regional meeting of UN agencies and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) working to arrest the spread of the disease.

The meeting, to be held early next week in Dakar, Senegal, will assess the scope of the outbreak and action to date, and agree on priority actions to enhance future response to the acute intestinal infection caused by consuming contaminated food or water. It can quickly cause severe dehydration leading to death, although a simple mix of water, sugar and salts is enough to save many lives.

According to OCHA’s regional office for West Africa, the total number of cholera cases recorded in the sub-region in 2005 stands at 24,621. There have been 401 deaths due to the disease in affected countries, including in Burkina Faso, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Liberia, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, and Senegal.

The country hardest hit is Guinea-Bissau, where both the number of affected persons and the number of deaths have nearly doubled in the last two weeks. Some 110 new cases of cholera continue to be diagnosed daily. The Government appealed for $104,000 in international assistance two weeks ago. Donations of medicine have been received from France and Portugal, but the need for additional assistance continues.

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