CARE Teams in Sierra Leone Intensify Efforts to Combat Cholera Outbreak

CARE Teams in Sierra Leone Intensify Efforts to Combat Cholera Outbreak image 1
Receiving a cholera prevention kit. © 2012 CARE/Tim Freccia.

August 10, 2012 – Freetown, the capital of Sierra Leone, is now struggling to contain a cholera epidemic that has affected at least 7,757 people and resulted in 134 deaths since January 2012. This is the biggest cholera outbreak in the country since 2007, with the number of incidences rising steadily, particularly in the Western Area.

The disease is mostly transmitted by contaminated water sources and foods, and is closely linked to inadequate sanitation. The lack of proper systems for drainage and waste disposal, coupled with heavy rains that cause flooding and contamination of water sources, has left the population increasingly vulnerable to the spread of this waterborne disease that can kill in hours.

The Ministry of Health is collaborating with partners to disseminate health promotion messages about how people can protect themselves and others against the spread of disease. Messages include washing hands properly, using only boiled water, and making sure that food is cooked or washed properly before consumption. Information about how and where to seek help is also being communicated. The government has set up three emergency centers in strategic locations around the city to handle new cases, with all government clinics providing free treatment for cholera.

CARE is mobilizing resources to facilitate comprehensive cholera prevention messaging and activity in five of our operational districts: Bombali, Kambia, Koinadugu, Tonkolili and Western Area.

In collaboration with government health workers, CARE is preparing to:

  • Provide information and education via radio discussions and public service announcements;
  • Distribute cholera prevention kits to highly-affected and at-risk community members; and
  • Conduct trainings on cholera prevention, hygiene and sanitation and community mobilization to community volunteers and existing community structures (including mother-to-mother groups, community health clubs and village savings and loan associations).

CARE also serves on the national Cholera Task Force, which regularly assesses the scale of the epidemic and discusses various resource mobilization strategies.

UPDATE: Cholera cases in Sierra Leone are on the rise. As of August 31, there were 13,934 cases and 232 deaths reported. Read more >