Poor hygiene exacerbated by growing piles of rubbish and the current political crisis are all factors that haelth experts and residents say contributed to a dry-season cholera outbreak in Abidjan, the capital of Côte d’Ivoire. So far eight people out of 61 infected have died.
The first case – in Abidjan’s Adjamé District (a poor neighbourhood that has seen severe post-election violence in recent weeks) – was registered in mid-January ; the major rains ended in November . Cholera has also affected the district of Williamsville.
“Across this region [West Africa] there are pockets of poverty where hygiene is poor and we see occasional outbreaks,” Mamadou D. Ball, WHO representative in Côte d’Ivoire, told IRIN. “The cholera bacterium is always present.”
Sandrine Touré, a health assistant in Williamsville, said she often sees children eating just after playing in rubbish. She added that many people, even in Abidjan, have no access to safe drinking water.
Since the political deadlock, household garbage is no longer being collected.
Even if families know that poor sanitation is linked to infectious disease, cholera was not much on people’s minds this time of year, said Soumaïla Traoré. “There is negligence in some communities. With the piles of rubbish people knew the threat of illness was real. But no one talked of cholera in this period.”
UNICEF and WHO are working with local health authorities to treat patients and promote better hygiene. advise communities on prevention. They are providing soap, cholera treatment kits and posters with prevention messages.
Source: IRIN, 31 Jan 2011