Cholera outbreak hits Cameroon

Northern Cameroon is facing an outbreak of cholera that has left 94 dead and appears to be spreading.

Health officials are calling the outbreak the worst in years and are baffled as to why it began so early in the season, IRINNews reports. Outbreaks are common in the area, but they usually begin in September. The first case was detected in May, leading some officials to believe the infection was brought from a neighboring country and then spread through contaminated water.

"We are used to seeing cholera here during the rainy season, but we don't understand what's happening this year," Kuété Fotié Yves, health director in the district of Moloko, told IRINNews. "We have not seen an outbreak of this magnitude in at least 10 years."

The Moloko region has contributed to more than half the number of known cases - 773 as of August 3. "We are seeing some 30 new cases every day," Kuété Fotié said.

Health workers say that a lack of sanitary latrine facilities and safe drinking water, combined with widespread malnutrition, have served to worsen the outbreak. According to a 2009 report by the United Nations Children’s Fund, only 30 percent of people in the rural parts of the country have access to clean water and only 15 percent to sanitation facilities.

"Generally, people do not have toilets here," Pierre Kollo, director of the Moloko district hospital, told IRINNews. "They defecate in the open, flies are everywhere and food in the markets is not properly protected."

Health workers from the Cameroon Health Ministry, the Red Cross and UNICEF are providing supplies and support free of charge, but new cases continue to appear daily, IRINNews reports.