WHO Warns About Biggest Cholera Surge in 20 Years

After noting a sharp surge of cholera in at least 30 countries, the World Health Organization (WHO) has issued a warning about the outbreak, pointing out that factors such as the economic crises, climate change, and the fallout from the Covid-19 pandemic have led to the ideal circumstances for the disease to flourish in high-risk countries.

Every year, around 143,000 people die from the disease globally, figures from the WHO state.

Following several years of decline, the scale of the various outbreaks rose sharply in 2022, the WHO said, pointing out that 29 countries reported cases of the disease between January and October of last year – compared to 23 the year before – with those numbers set to rise in 2023.

Contracted by ingesting contaminated food or water, Cholera is a severe disease that, if left untreated, can lead to death within hours.

The head of the WHO’s cholera emergencies response unit, Philippe Barboza, underscored that, in at least 20 years, they have not seen a such big number of countries with such large outbreaks occurring at the same time.

The situation in Syria, which declared last year its first outbreak of cholera in 15 years, is worsening following the earthquakes last month while Lebanon, which struggles to fight off the disease amid economic collapse, is facing a similar problem for the first time in 30 years.

Southern African countries that are facing a third straight year of heavy rain and cyclones brought on by the La Nina weather phenomenon are particularly at risk as most of the major outbreaks we’re looking at are all driven by major, unusual climate events.

The impact of cholera, as the WHO director Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said last year, has been “turbocharged” by the effects of climate change.

Given that efforts to combat cholera outbreaks were paused throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, experts say the problem has also been exacerbated by the fact that Covid cases have overwhelmed various countries’ health services.

Noting that access to healthcare is a basic human right that is not that expensive to just provide, Barboza explained that cholera can and should be controlled.

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