By Boris Esono Nwenfor
Since the outbreak of the Cholera epidemic in Cameroon in October 2021, 243 people have been killed with public health officials reechoing the call for vigilance amongst the population. A total of eleven thousand nine hundred and ninety-three (11, 993) cases have been notified, according to the latest data revealed on 29th September 2022, by Minister of Public Health Manaouda Malachie.
“The response to curb the disease is based on thorough investigations, household disinfection and community awareness activities. At the same time, the free care of patients continues as well as vaccination in some health districts,” the public health official said at the end of the Cabinet meeting.
Prime Minister, Joseph Dion Ngute, has instructed Minister Manaouda Malachie to improve the rate of vaccination coverage against the disease and to intensify community awareness activities regarding this “health emergency.”
Cholera is an acute enteric infection caused by the ingestion of Vibrio cholera bacteria present in contaminated water or food. In its severe form, it can lead to severe dehydration and death within hours if left untreated. It is primarily linked to insufficient access to safe water and adequate sanitation. It has the potential to spread rapidly, depending on the frequency of exposure, the population exposed, and the context.
Since the beginning of 2021, Cameroon has reported sporadic cases of cholera. During week 43 of 2021, ending on 31 October, health authorities declared a cholera outbreak that is currently active in the South-West region, with cases also reported from the Centre and Littoral regions. Between 25 October and 10 December 2021, these three regions reported a cumulative number of 309 suspected and 4 laboratory-confirmed cholera cases, with 19 deaths (case fatality ratio (CFR) of 6.1%).
The World Health Organisation (WHO) is currently sounding an alarm about cholera. “After years of decline, we are seeing a worrying resurgence of cholera outbreaks worldwide over the past year. Not only are there more outbreaks, but the outbreaks themselves are larger and more deadly,” said WHO’s Team Leader for Cholera and Diarrhoeal Epidemic Diseases, Philippe Barboza, at a press briefing in Geneva.
“Extreme weather events such as floods, cyclones and droughts further reduce access to safe water and create an ideal environment for cholera to thrive. As the effects of climate change intensify, we can expect the situation to worsen if we do not act now to boost cholera prevention,” he added.
Cholera is endemic in Cameroon. Since 2018, cholera outbreaks have been reported annually in various regions of the country including in the currently affected regions (South-West, Centre and Littoral). Several risk factors concur with the circulation of Vibrio cholera in the country, including limited access to safe drinking water and health care facilities in the affected areas of the South-West region and in the capital city of Yaoundé, as well as cultural practices that contribute to unsafe WASH conditions.