Outbreak of cholera kills 62 in Sierra Leone

An outbreak of cholera has killed 62 people in Sierra Leone in less than a month, according to the West African country's health ministry.

There have been 3,721 cases and 62 deaths reported between June 23 and July 17. The most cases were found in Port Loko, where 21 children under the age of five died as a result of the disease, AFP reports.

"Three towns in the northern and southern parts of the country have now been declared cholera outbreak areas," a ministry statement said, according to AFP. "Emergency referral centers have been set up and hospitals and health clinics have been boosted with drugs to combat any escalation of the problem."

The Sierra Leone Red Cross has mobilized approximately 400 volunteers to control the spread of the disease and educate the public on how to prevent it. As the annual rainy season begins, cholera has killed 700 people in West and Central Africa and has caused over 29,000 cases.

"The outbreak has been traced to unsanitary conditions, acute water shortages in many parts of the country and migration from affected regions," a health official said, according to AFP.

According to the World Health Organization, poor sanitation and water systems lead to food and water contaminated by cholera, which can kill within hours. Mali, Niger and Guinea have also been affected by the disease.