The United Nations said Friday that a billion people in 43 countries are at risk of cholera, and that while outbreaks can be stopped, resources are desperately short.
The UN health agency stated that the future is grim, as it seeks $640 million to combat the deadly disease, but that the longer it takes to ratchet up the fight, the worse the situation will get.
Vaccination campaigns, according to the World Health Organization, have been seriously impeded.
“WHO estimates that a billion people across 43 countries are at risk of cholera,” said Henry Gray, the organization’s incident manager for the global cholera response.
This year, 24 nations have reported cholera outbreaks, up from 15 by mid-May last year.
Countries that are not normally afflicted by cholera are being hit, and case fatality rates substantially above the average of one in 100.
Gray attributed the increase in cases to poverty, violence, and climate change, as well as the population displacement that these factors cause.
“As the number of countries affected by cholera grows, the resources available for prevention and response become more dispersed,” he said.
The oral cholera vaccine is an example: almost 18 million doses were sought this year, but only eight million were made available, causing preventative campaigns to be halted.
Instead of the full two dosages, only one is being given to patients “to try to spin it out,” according to Gray.
“The outlook is bleak.”
Over the next 12 months, the WHO wants $160 million for more than 40 nations. It is collaborating with the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), which is seeking $480 million.
UNICEF’s public health emergency unit leader, Jerome Pfaffmann Zambruni, stated that the agency had requested $150 million for cholera response in November, a sum that has already been surpassed as the situation has worsened.
“It’s a wake-up call,” he said at a press conference in Geneva.
“We have a pandemic killing the poor right in front of us, and we know exactly how to stop it,” he added. “But we need more support and less inertia from the global community because if we don’t act now, it will get worse.”
Cholera is caused by a bacterium that is usually spread by contaminated food or drink.
It causes diarrhoea and vomiting and is particularly hazardous to young children.