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Mar 21, 2024

Millions at risk from cholera: WHO

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FA News Desk
Image: PHM
Image: PHM

International Coordinating Group (ICG) on Vaccine Provision has urged Immediate action needed to stem an unprecedented multi-year upsurge in cholera cases worldwide.

According to the WHO, actions include investing in access to safe water, sanitation and hygiene, testing and detecting outbreaks quickly, improving quality of and access to healthcare, and fast-tracking additional production of affordable oral cholera vaccine (OCV) doses to better prevent cases.

The ICG manages the global cholera vaccine stockpile. The group includes the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, Médecins Sans Frontières, UNICEF and WHO.

Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, finances the vaccine stockpile and the delivery of OCV. ICG members are calling for governments, donors, vaccine manufacturers, partners and communities to join in an urgent effort to halt and reverse the rise in cholera.

Cholera has been surging globally since 2021, with the 473 000 cases reported to WHO in 2022, more than double those reported in 2021. Preliminary data for 2023 reveal further increases, with over 700 000 cases reported.

Cholera is an acute intestinal infection that spreads through food and water contaminated with faeces containing the bacterium Vibrio cholerae. The rise in cholera is being driven by persistent gaps in access to safe water and sanitation.

Currently, the most severely impacted countries include the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Haiti, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Zambia, and Zimbabwe, added WHO in its press note.

Now more than ever, countries must adopt a multisectoral response to fight cholera. Members of the ICG call on currently and potentially affected countries to take urgent steps to ensure their populations have access to clean water, hygiene and sanitation services, and the information critical to prevent cholera’s spread.

Between 2021 and 2023, more doses were requested for outbreak response than the entire previous decade, it reads.

Approximately 36 million doses were produced in 2023. Global production capacity in 2024 is forecast to be 37-50 million doses.

Since the beginning of 2023, and as of 25 February 2024, a total of 13 countries in the WHO African Region have documented probable and confirmed cases of yellow fever.