NEW YORK (August 30, 2012) — Cholera is a significant public health priority currently making headlines, including The New York Times article of August 22, ‘Cholera Epidemic Envelops Coastal Slums in West Africa’. With increasing numbers of cases reported, burgeoning frequency of large and protracted outbreaks, emergence of more virulent and drug-resistant strains, growing numbers of people living in unsanitary conditions, and the impact of climate change, cholera trends are of alarming concern:
A recent paper, ‘The Global Burden of Cholera’, estimates that there are between 1.4 and 4.3 million cholera cases per year worldwide, resulting in 28,000 to 142,000 deaths per year among the 1.4 billion people at risk in countries in which the disease is endemic. In these countries, children under five account for about half of the global incidence and deaths caused by cholera.
To address these trends through more effective cholera prevention, preparedness and response, employees from UNICEF country and regional offices in three regions (Eastern and Southern Africa, West and Central Africa and Latin America and the Caribbean) and experts based in UNICEF headquarters came together in Harare, Zimbabwe, on August 22–23. Joined by cholera experts from the World Health Organization (WHO), Oxfam and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), they shared their expertise and experience for the development of a comprehensive UNICEF Cholera Toolkit for use by country, regional and headquarters staff.
“UNICEF is an active partner in cholera control, and effective prevention, preparedness and response require an integrated, multi-sector approach for which UNICEF is strategically and uniquely positioned,” explains Heather Papowitz, Senior Advisor, Health-Emergencies. “The development of this hands-on toolkit draws on UNICEF and relevant partner expertise in the areas of Health, Nutrition, Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH), Communication, Education, Child Protection, Communication for Development, Supply and Emergencies.”
Drawing on the wealth of experience and knowledge at the country, regional and headquarters level, the toolkit will serve as a crucial and practical resource that shares proven guidance, tools and best practices that will not only help in cholera preparedness and response to outbreaks, but also in prevention and risk reduction.
“It’s important that our Health, Nutrition, WASH, Communication, Emergency and Communication for Development experts from various country, regional and headquarters offices are here working together with WHO, Oxfam and CDC colleagues on the toolkit,” says Kit Dyer, UNICEF Eastern and Southern Africa Regional Office Regional WASH-Emergency Specialist. “The only way to address and reverse current cholera trends is through a collective, coordinated effort. The cholera toolkit will help us to capitalize on UNICEF’s diverse and extensive expertise as we work closely with governments and partner organizations in cholera prevention, preparedness and response.”