U.N. refugee agency helps Niger deal with cholera epidemic

The U.N. refugee agency said on Tuesday that it is working with Niger to help the country contain a cholera epidemic that has killed seven individuals in just over a week.

Two of the individuals killed were Malian refugees. Both resided in the Mangaize camp in the Tillaberi region, which hosts approximately 15,000 people. The U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees said there have been 248 cases in the Tillaberi region, with 31 cases among refugees in the Tabareybarey and Mangaize camps.

"We are responding to the outbreak in the camps by implementing emergency health and sanitation measures, such as increasing the supply of clean water," Melissa Fleming, a spokesperson for the UNHCR, said. "Together with our partners, we are also providing oral rehydration solutions, soap and aquatabs. However, more drugs are urgently needed in the centers to treat potential new cases."

The UNHCR is also attempting to spread public health messages throughout the camps and in local communities in the surrounding areas.

"We are currently reinforcing our team with the arrival [Monday] of a regional health coordinator who will work with authorities and partners on additional measures to contain the epidemic," Fleming said. "The implementation of a vaccination campaign for the population at risk, both inside and outside the refugee camps, is a measure under consideration."

In 2012, a cholera epidemic in Niger affected 5,287 people and killed 110 individuals. The Tillaberi region was the most affected with 4,792 cases and the loss of 87 lives.

Niger is one of the poorest countries in the world. It currently hosts approximately 50,000 Malian refugees who fled fighting in their home country.