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Cholera outbreak escalates in Sierra Leone

A massive outbreak of cholera in Sierra Leone is threatening hundreds of thousands of people. Concern Worldwide’s teams are working to contain the problem.

Paul O’Brien, Concern’s overseas director, said: "The World Health Organisation has now confirmed that 10 of the 13 districts in Sierra Leone are affected. Our immediate priority is to stem the spread of the epidemic and prevent further loss of life."

Rains and flooding

Though cholera is widespread in Sierra Leone, the situation was worsened this year by an exceptionally heavy rainy season. A number of regions were flooded, including the urban slums of Freetown where the majority of people don’t have access to toilets and proper sanitation.

Over 12,000 people affected

The current outbreak is already more than twice as severe as the last major epidemic which occurred in 2007. 

A sharp spike in the number of cases reported in August brought the death toll to 218. So far, a total of 12,148 people have been infected by the disease. 

What is cholera?

Cholera is contracted by ingesting contaminated water or food – caused by faeces in the water supply. It quickly deteriorates into severe dehydration, usually from acute diarrhoea and vomiting. In extreme cases, death can occur within hours if basic, cost-effective supplies are not available. 

Charity work in Sierra Leone

We’re working to prevent a further escalation of the crisis, targeting more than 270,000 people in Freetown and the rural district of Tonkolili.

To do this, we’re promoting hygiene and water chlorination. We’re providing people with water purification tablets, soap, jerry cans and oral rehydration salts.

We’re training health volunteers to raise awareness in their communities about how to treat and prevent cholera. These volunteers will refer serious cases to the nearest public health unit. 

Working together

We’re also collaborating with local government partners and other international agencies. We’re supporting the Ministry of Health to provide medical care and distribute supplies to local health facilities.