Aid agencies warn of cholera threat in desperate West Africa

Thousands of cholera cases have been confirmed in parts of West Africa already suffering a food crisis, droughts, locusts, and conflict.

Almost 3000 cases of the potentially fatal disease have been diagnosed in the Tillaberi region of Niger alone, which is offering shelter to some of the thousands of Malians fleeing violence in their own country.

And World Vision fears the onset of the rainy season will only lead to more cases of cholera, although simple steps are being taken to counter the disease.

World Vision Australia has been distributing bars of soap to people seeking safety in the Mangaize refugee camp in Tillaberi, Niger.

World Vision Australia chief executive Tim Costello said it is easy to forget a basic bar of soap could make a huge difference to the health of people living in camps without proper sanitation.

“Making sure people can wash their hands properly is one of the first steps to preventing the spread of disease,” Mr Costello said. “And in conditions like the Mangaize refugee camp the soap we would all take for granted in our bathrooms can quite literally save a life.”

World Vision has already dug bore wells and installed taps in Mangaize, where temperatures regularly hover around 40C, to ensure access to clean water for the refugee population.

Mr Costello said with more rain on the way the need for proper sanitation would only increase.

More than 18 million people have been affected by the food crisis in West Africa, all of them trying to battle the consequences of unrelenting drought, locusts, regional instability and the displacement of whole communities.

The United Nations says it will cost about $1.6 billion to deal with the crisis in West Africa, but so far only 55 per cent of that has been raised. Globally, World Vision is aiming to raise $62 million to help 1.1 million people.

To donate to the West Africa Food Crisis Appeal call 13 32 40 or go to www.worldvision.com.au

Media contact: Kate Rose – 0418 528 683 / kate.rose@worldvision.com.au

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