Cholera prevention campaign targets over 1.6 million children in Cameroon

Yaoundé, Cameroon, 6 September 2010 - Over 1.6 million school children at risk of contracting cholera in northern Cameroon will benefit from a vital communications campaign launching today. The campaign, 'My School Without Cholera', is an unprecedented communications response to Cameroon's worst cholera outbreak in 20 years. It will be launched on the first day of the new school year in 3,639 schools - every primary school - in Cameroon's three northern regions.

"A major reason for the scale of this outbreak is the lack of knowledge among communities at risk in terms of hygiene and sanitation. This unprecedented communications campaign is fundamental in addressing the severe outbreak that is affecting children, young people and communities in the northern regions of Cameroon" said Ora Musu Clemens-Hope, UNICEF Representative in Cameroon. UNICEF is well aware that the lack of awareness is only part of the problem. "The communities at risk face a lack of drinking water, latrines and have very limited access to health care. UNICEF is calling its partners in the government to address the underlying problems in the communities where most of the cholera related deaths are occurring" added Ms Clemens-Hope.

The campaign will reach children and their communities through a series of TV and radio advertisements, SMS alerts, the distribution of posters, leaflets, stickers and school exercise books featuring cholera prevention messages, in addition to training social mobilisers, teachers, parents, pupils and religious leaders to promote hygiene to their peers and the wider community.

UNICEF is supporting the launch of this groundbreaking communications campaign, in partnership with the Government of Cameroon and with the support of local private stakeholders such as MTN, Camtel, Orange, and Complexe Chimique Camerounais (CCC).

Cameroon's cholera outbreak started in May 2010 in the Extreme North region and has spread to the neighboring North region putting at risk over five million people. It has caused 4,541 confirmed cases of cholera resulting into 331 deaths according to official figures (30.08.10). The return to school increases the risk of cholera further spreading in a region characterized by low access to clean water, latrines, and extremely high rates of open defecation.

"UNICEF has been working with the Cameroonian Government, WHO, UNFPA, WFP, UNHCR and the Red Cross since the outbreak began. It has provided family water and hygiene kits for the conservation and treatment or water, medicines and Oral Rehydration Salts for the treatment of cholera" concluded Ms Clemens-Hope. "We are doing all we can to help prevent further deaths".

For more information, please contact:

Jeremy Sprigge, UNICEF Cameroon

T: +237 792 607 49, Office: +237 22 22 03 93/22 22 31 82 (ext 239)