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Plan working to prevent a potential cholera ‘catastrophe’ reaching refugee camps in Niger

3 July 2012: Plan International is responding to cholera in Niger, which has spread to three new areas within recent weeks. The Ministry of Health has reported that the number of cases has topped 2,000 - which is more than a 400% increase over the same period in 2011. In the last two weeks, the number of children and women becoming infected with cholera has increased to more than 50 per day. Health authorities believe river water is a source of infection for this waterborne disease.

Triple disaster

Niger is facing a triple disaster: A food and nutritional crisis affecting 5.4 million people with a looming locust invasion, a refugee crisis, and now cholera.

“The worse affected area is Tillaberi, which is the region most affected by the food crisis and home to tens of thousands of Malian refugees,” said Plan’s Regional Disaster Manager for West Africa Roland Berehoudougou.

Mr Berehoudougou said that with the start of the rainy season a further increase in the disease is anticipated.

Preventable

Dr Unni Krishnan, one of Plan International’s disaster response experts, said that cholera is totally preventable and does not have to end in death.

“Cholera discriminates against children; it hits them hard and fast. However, dealing with cholera is not rocket science, simple preventable measures such as using clean water, proper sanitation and public health measures can make the difference between life and death,” Dr Krishnan said, adding that “within the context of a food and nutrition crisis, cholera should be a top priority.”

Act quickly

Emergency Response Manager of Plan Niger, Mamoudou Madougou, said that his office is sparing no effort to ensure that the disease does not reach the refugees camps in the Tillaberi Department.

“The town of Ayourou in Tillaberi, where the largest refugee camp is located, has been declared to be infected with cholera. The disease has not reached camp but is just eight kilometres away from the closest infected area. If the disease reaches the camp and the situation degenerates, it would quickly become catastrophic,” he said.

“Both Malians and Nigeriens children who are weakened by the food crisis are especially vulnerable to cholera which can kill them within a matter of hours unless treated. Plan is providing water disinfectants and other public health measures to assist the government with the control of the disease. In addition, we are helping to educate the public on how they can combat it.”

Plan International is currently appealing for funds to finance the cholera emergency response.

Acting quickly is key to stopping the tide of cholera.

Donate or read more on Plan's West Africa food and refugee crisis appeal

Media contacts:

Terry Ally
Global Press Officer (Disasters)
Email: terry.ally@plan-international.org
Tel: +44 (0)1483 733 227 

Plan Niger Emergency Response Manager and the West Africa Regional Disaster Risk Management Manager (currently in the UK) are available for interview

Editor’s notes:

  • As of 26 June 2012 the number of cases were 2095 compared to 474 in June 2011;
  • As of 27 June 2012, UNHCR has registered a total of 44,879 refugees in camps and sites in the western regions of the country;
  • Across the Sahel region more than 18 million people are facing a food crisis due to a poor 2011 harvest;
  • More than 1 million children are at risk of severe acute malnutrition
  • Nearly another 3 million children are showing signs of malnutrition and are at risk of becoming severely malnourished;
  • Most recent surveillance has reported desert locust swarms flying southward from northern Niger and Mali and already causing destruction to date palms. Due to insecurity, pest control measures are hindered raising fears that they could reach affected populations and destroy the 2012 crops pushing these people in a hunger crisis that could extend into 2013.
  • Founded 75 years ago, Plan is one of the oldest and largest children's development organisations in the world.  We work in 50 developing countries across Africa, Asia and the Americas to promote child rights and lift millions of children out of poverty. Plan is independent, with no religious, political or governmental affiliations. www.plan-international.org