Cholera Spreads in Mali and Niger

Earlier this month, a cholera outbreak occurred around rebel-held Gao in northern Mali. Although aid agencies and relief organizations said that cholera cases for West Africa are lower this year than they were at the same point last year, the outbreak in Mali has created fears of a localized upsurge of cases in Mali and Niger. An outbreak also began around Tillaberi, Niger (map) in January. Within the zone of concern, the epidemic is now spreading:

A cholera epidemic in Niger has killed 58 people and spread to a refugee camp housing Malians who have fled the unrest in the north of their country, the UN said on Thursday.

“The overall number of cases reported as of 15 July is 2 900, with 58 deaths,” the UN’s Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs said in a report issued from Niger’s capital Niamey.

“The number of cholera cases continues to increase [and] the … situation remains worrying with the arrival of the rainy season,” it added.

Cholera rarely spreads directly from person to person; rather, it spreads through contaminated water, especially in areas with poor sanitation. The article above does not say whether Malian refugees have carried the disease with them from Mali, but in any case the camps seem to have inadequate sanitation. As the crisis continues in Mali and the epidemic spreads in western Niger, cholera cases seem likely to increase in the sub-region.

For more, see AFP‘s report from Gao on how the interlocking crises of “conflict, hunger, cholera, and locusts” are killing people and disrupting life in northern Mali.

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