NEW YORK (May 29, 2013) – A cholera outbreak in the Gao region of Mali has claimed two lives and left another 20 people needing urgent treatment. This is the first outbreak of the disease in Mali since the start of the rainy season. With the Ministry of Health, the World Health Organization and other partners, UNICEF is stepping up assistance to affected communities and scaling up prevention and awareness-raising activities.
“Everyone must act quickly or this disease will continue to claim the lives of the most vulnerable, especially children,” said Francoise Ackermans, UNICEF Representative in Mali. “We will continue to work with communities to help them learn how to prevent this disease from spreading and to know what to do if people become sick,” she added.
Cholera is a disease caused by poor hygiene and sanitation and can be contracted by eating or drinking contaminated food or liquids. Poor health services mean that treatment may be late or inadequate. The disease is often associated with the poorest and most vulnerable communities as they are the least likely to have access to latrines or safe water.
UNICEF and its partners are working in the affected zones to ensure an effective response. This includes supplying water treatment equipment, chlorine products, medicine and educational material for communities. Since May 11, UNICEF has sent more than 40 tons of hygiene and water treatment materials to ensure safe drinking water to over 54,000 people in the impacted area and to disinfect 10 cholera treatment facilities. In addition, UNICEF is working with local authorities and communities across the affected districts to expand access to safe water and sanitation, to educate families on how to prevent the spread of the disease, and to equip health facilities with supplies, skills and expertise.
“Hand-washing campaigns, treatment of drinking water and awareness-raising campaigns through local and national radio, door-to-door visits, religious and traditional leaders, and other channels must be carried out in the months to come. This will help mitigate cholera cases in the affected zones and help prevent the spread to other parts of the country and neighboring countries,” said Ackermans.
UNICEF is concerned that the current humanitarian situation in Northern Mali will contribute to further cholera outbreaks.
The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) works in 190 countries and territories to save and improve children’s lives, providing health care and immunizations, clean water and sanitation, nutrition, education, emergency relief and more. The U.S. Fund for UNICEF supports UNICEF's work through fundraising, advocacy and education in the United States. Together, we are working toward the day when ZERO children die from preventable causes and every child has a safe and healthy childhood. For more information, visit www.unicefusa.org.