Cholera threatens millions of people due to lack of access to clean water, sanitation and vaccines

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The spread of cholera is directly linked to the lack of access to clean water, proper sanitation and hygiene measures. In some regions of the world, despite the efforts of international organizations, these problems are exacerbated by climate change, economic instability, conflict and displacement. Ensuring a secure water supply, improving sanitation and access to vaccines are key to stopping the expansion of the disease.

ICG Appeal

The International Coordination Group for the International Coordination of the World. The International Vaccine Delivery Group (ICG) is calling for urgent action to stem the unprecedented upward trend in the number of cholera cases around the world over the past several years. Among the recommended measures are investing in access to clean water and sanitation and hygiene measures, rapidly detecting and responding to outbreaks, improving the availability and quality of health care, and intensifying the production and distribution of an affordable oral cholera vaccine (OCV).

Cholera can be deadly

Cholera, a bacterial disease transmitted through contaminated water, can lead to fatal fluid loss in the body within just a few hours of the first symptoms. Dirty hand disease, as it is commonly referred to, is simple to treat and even simpler to prevent. However, in some regions of the world it still poses a serious threat to public health, mainly due to the lack of basic sanitation and hygiene infrastructure.

According to the World Health Organization(WHO), there has been a global increase in the incidence of cholera since 2021, with 473,000 cases reported in 2022, more than double the previous year. Preliminary data for 2023 indicate a continuation of this trend with more than 700,000 reported cases. Also alarming is the high mortality rate, exceeding 1 percent in some outbreaks, which signals the need for effective and early treatment of patients. The increase in cases is particularly alarming given that cholera is a treatable disease, and the number of cases has been declining in previous years. Currently, the crisis is primarily affecting countries such as the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Haiti, Somalia, Sudan and Syria, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

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Source: areas affected by cholera outbreaks, WHO

Access to clean water is essential

Research published last year in the Journal of Environmental Management and Sustainability indicates that improving access to clean water and basic sanitation can reduce cholera cases by up to 40 percent. In the world’s most vulnerable regions. In contrast, a study by the Global Health Institute stresses that increasing the global stockpile of vaccines against the disease is essential to protect communities from future waves of outbreaks. Lack of access to clean water and basic hygiene supplies is a particularly pressing problem in regions affected by poverty, conflict and natural disasters.

The WHO, in a report published earlier this year, pledges that planning and prioritization of activities in the face of the cholera threat will be updated on an ongoing basis. Especially in the context of the strong impact of the El Niño phenomenon at the global, regional and national levels. At the same time, the ICG is calling for multi-sectoral action in the fight against cholera, encouraging countries affected or at risk of the disease to ensure that their populations have access to clean water, sanitation and hygiene, and the necessary information to prevent the disease. Implementing these measures requires political initiative and investment that includes building capacity for early detection and response, better recognition of symptoms, rapid access to treatment and care, and collaboration with local communities.

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