Swift Action Needed To Combat Cholera Epidemics In South African Nations
In order to combat cholera epidemics, the task force will support cooperation and collaboration on cross-border preparedness, readiness, and response.
Ministers of health, water, sanitation, and the environment from 11 southern African nations made an urgent plea today for action to promote cooperation and collaboration on preparation, readiness, and response to cholera epidemics, other waterborne illnesses, and public health emergencies related to climate change.
A higher number of cases could be reported than in 2021, the worst year for cholera in Africa in nearly ten years, with 130,705 cholera cases and 3052 deaths recorded to date in the African region since 2022. Additionally, cholera outbreaks are occurring in parts of the region that are not typically affected by the disease.
The ministers decided to “undertake urgent actions to facilitate cooperation and collaboration amongst our Member States for cholera, polio, and climate-related public health emergency preparedness, readiness, and response” at a high-level ministerial meeting on “Cholera epidemics and Climate-related Public Health Emergencies” in Lilongwe on March 9 and 10.
The World Health Organization (WHO) Regional Office for Africa, the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC), and UNICEF all provided assistance in the organisation of the meeting.
The Honourable Khumbize Kandodo Chiponda, Minister of Health in Malawi, stated that she believes it is possible to put an end to cholera outbreaks in southern Africa and to achieve regional targets in eliminating the disease in order to ensure a healthy future for our populations.
The current cholera epidemics are taking place in a setting of extreme climatic events that increase the risk of the spread of waterborne diseases, such as a severe drought in the greater Horn of Africa and seasonal rains and tropical storms in southern Africa. There is currently a cholera outbreak in 13 different countries in the WHO’s African region, and there is still a risk of cross-border infection.
The persistence of cholera is a result of inadequate water and sanitation infrastructure and services, poor hygiene, gaps in surveillance, health systems, and the workforce that make it difficult to detect outbreaks early and respond quickly, as well as a lack of political commitment to secure the funds required to make changes.
“This widespread appeal for coordinated efforts comes at the ideal time. We can combat cholera epidemics and lessen the effects of public health emergencies related to climate change by collaborating in multisectoral partnerships, supported by sufficient political commitment and investment,” “WHO Regional Director for Africa, Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, said. Together, we can put an end to the current cholera outbreaks in the area and save a lot of lives.
After Malawi confirmed its first case in 30 years in February 2022, five southern African nations—all of which were responding to a cholera outbreak—invested enormous efforts over the previous year to immunise more than 33 million children against wild poliovirus type 1.
Ministers at the meeting called for the creation of the Africa Elimination of Cholera Epidemics Coordination Task Force (AECECT), which would be based at the African Union secretariat in Addis Abe, Ethiopia, and would be led by member states with assistance from the African CDC, WHO, UNICEF, GTFCC, and other pertinent partners. They also called for the task force to be fully in line with the Ending Cholera Initiative.
In order to combat cholera epidemics, the task force will support cooperation and collaboration on cross-border preparedness, readiness, and response. The communiqué also calls for the timely exchange of information on topics of shared interest as deemed necessary for preparation and response.