A comprehensive policy initiative has been proposed to help fight the outbreak of cholera which is endemic among African countries.

“There should be strong public health system to curb the cholera outbreak, which is endemic in the third-world countries.

“Access to safe water and sanitation is still inadequate in many countries in Africa. Surveillance, detection and diagnosis are still also suboptimal,” Dr. Luc Hessel, General Secretary of the Initiative Against Diarrheal and Enteric Diseases in Africa (IDEA) said.

He explained that vaccinations should not disrupt other high-priority interventions, such as providing access to safe drinking water and improving basic sanitation, hygiene and health education, which are all efficient when properly applied.

“Vaccines provide a short-term option for populations living in high-risk areas, while longer-term activities — such as improving drinking water and sanitation, may be put in place for a more sustained control.”  Dr. Hessel made this statement in Accra at the end of a five-day forum organised by IDEA and aimed at discussing ways of fighting against cholera and enteric diseases in Africa countries including Ghana.

IDEA is an independent and multidisciplinary group committed to sharing information, analysing relevant issues, raising disease-awareness and suggesting measures to support the formulation of policies required to improve disease control in Africa and also discuss ways of fighting against cholera and other enteric diseases.

IDEA is currently active among countries such as Benin, Cameroon, Cote d’lvoire, Democratic Republic of Congo, Madagascar, Mali and Senegal; while some of the anglophone African countries comprised Kenya, Mozambique, South Africa, Tanzania, Zambia, Zimbabwe and Uganda.

The initiative is presently extending its coverage to Ghana, Nigeria, Burkina Faso and others.

Dr. Portia Manangazira, Director of Epidemiology and Disease Control at the Ministry of Health in Mozambique, expressed a comprehensive action-plan to help address some of the problems associated with cholera on the continent.

“There is a need for African countries to provide safe water and good sanitation in reducing the transmission and impact of cholera,” she said.

Dr. Laurrent Assogba, Technical Adviser in Health Policy at the Ministry of Health for Benin, said: “Benin has strategised measures in fighting the incidence of cholera, aimed at providing adequate and timely information to policy-makers to foster rational approach to prevention as well as early detection of the outbreak of cholera.”

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has said despite national and international efforts, most cholera cases continue to occur in the Third World countries, particularly in Africa, with a very high mortality rate.

It estimated that three to five million cholera cases occur every year, leading to 100,000 to 120,000 deaths.
In 2009, Africa accounted for 98 percent of the total cholera cases reported to WHO — reporting a total of 217,333 cases, including 4,883 deaths.

Many countries including Zimbabwe in 2009, Cameroon in 2009-20011, Cote di Ivoire in 2011, and Democratic Republic of Congo in 2011 reported cholera epidemics.

By Ekow Essabra-Mensah

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