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Cholera Outbreak in Central African Republic Rises

AUG 17, 2016 | FATIA KASUMU
The World Health Organization (WHO) has confirmed at least 46 cases of cholera in the Central African Republic (CAR). "Since August 10, at least 16 people have died in the first cholera outbreak in CAR since 2011," according to the United Nations International Children's Emergency Fund (UNICEF). CAR’s neighboring country, South Sudan, is also experiencing outbreaks of cholera.

The Central African Republic, located in central Africa, is slightly smaller than Texas and is bordered by the Democratic Republic of Congo, Chad, and Sudan. CAR has experienced violence and faced instability in the government with rebel forces having seized the government as Christian and Muslim forces clash.  “As a result, thousands of people have been killed, over 600,000 driven from homes and most of the population has been made vulnerable to violence, according to the United Nations News Centre," according to the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) World Factbook. The government does not have full control in the countryside, or rural areas according to the United Nations. With over 5 million people in the country, the drinking water source hasn't improved for 31% percent of the population, making the water more susceptible to many infectious diseases such as malaria, dengue fever, bacterial and protozoa diarrhea, and hepatitis A and E.

According to the report, the index case of cholera seems to have stemmed from someone who got sick after returning from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). The outbreak was declared on August 10, with cases in the provinces of Djoujou, Damara, and Bangui, all along the Oubangui river. WHO and the Ministry of Health and Sanitation has responded to the crisis by activating a cholera command center, with the assistance of humanitarian partners covering surveillance, case management, security, and management of dead bodies.
Medicines Sans Frontieres (MSF), or Doctors Without Borders, which has worked in CAR since 1996 as a health partner to combat disease, conflict, and provide access to healthcare has set up a mobile team to conduct water source treatment and community engagement activities in villages along the Oubangui river, according to the WHO report. In addition, UNICEF has pledged its support in providing medicine, clean water, water purification tablets, and hygiene kits to affected communities.

“There is urgent need for additional resources to enhance disease surveillance as well as support to restore health services in a country with many public health threats,” said Michel Yao, PhD, a WHO representative for CAR, in the report.
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