UNICEF responds to Mali cholera outbreak

UNICEF and its partners are responding to a cholera outbreak in the Gao region of Mali that has killed two and left 20 individuals urgently needing treatment, the agency said on Wednesday.

UNICEF, Mali's Ministry of Health, the World Health Organization and other partners are working together to increase assistance to affected communities while scaling up awareness-raising and prevention activities.

"Everyone must act quickly or this disease will continue to claim the lives of the most vulnerable, especially children," Francoise Ackermans, UNICEF's representative in Mali, said. "We will continue to work with communities to help them learn how to prevent this disease from spreading and to know what to do if people become sick."

Cholera is a disease caused by poor sanitation and hygiene and can be contracted by drinking or eating contaminated foods or liquids. The disease is typically associated with the poorest and most vulnerable communities without access to safe water or latrines.

Since May 11, UNICEF has sent more than 40 tons of hygiene and water treatment materials to secure safe drinking water for more than 54,000 people in the impacted area and disinfect 10 facilities for cholera treatment. UNICEF is also working with communities to expand access to sanitation and safe water, equip health facilities with supplies and expertise and educate families on how to stop the disease from spreading.

"Hand-washing campaigns, treatment of drinking water and awareness-raising campaigns through local and national radio, door-to-door visits, religious and traditional leaders, and other channels must be carried out in the months to come," Ackermans said. "This will help mitigate cholera cases in the affected zones and help prevent the spread to other parts of the country and neighboring countries."

UNICEF expressed concern that the current humanitarian situation in Northern Mali could lead to further outbreaks of the disease.