Latest information on the cholera epidemic in Guinea Bissau

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Spotlight on cholera outbreak in Guinea Bissau

Situation as of 17th October

- A virulent outbreak has been claiming victims since mid -May.

- The outbreak has proved exceptionally difficult to control.

- As of 17th of October, a total of 11,508 cases have been recorded, with 190 deaths (which makes fatality rate at 1.7%). The trend of increasing cases continues and 267 new cases have been recorded during the past three days. For the first time since the start of the outbreak, no death has been recorded during the past two days.

- Although a number of rural areas are affected, most cases have been in the capital, Bissau (7,786 cases and 65 deaths).

- During 15-16 Oct., 93 cases of cholera with a total of 9 children (from 1-14 years old) and no death were recorded at the Re-hydration Centre of the National Hospital Sim=E3o Mendes of Bissau. The six pperipheral Re-hydration Centers in the Autonomous Sector of Bissau recorded 63 cases and no death.

- Young children are particularly vulnerable when struck by cholera and the dehydration it causes.


- From the beginning UNICEF has been actively engaged with the Ministry of Health to combat the outbreak, to sensitise populations to adopt preventive behaviours and bring in supplies of re-hydration salts, medicines, tents, cholera beds, bleach, sodium hypochlorite, sprayers etc..

- The agency has also been mobilizing donors and calling for assistance from qualified organisations not currently active in the country.

- A medical health staff member from the UNICEF office in neighbouring Guinea has been drafted in to assist the UNICEF Bissau Cholera Crisis Team. He is supporting the training of partners in the control of the cholera outbreak, with a special focus on appropriate treatment at health centres, implementation of hygienic measures in health centres, while following up on new cases and promoting hygienic practices. On 27-28 September, a training on clinial aspects, health education and sanitation was organized to benefit 114 health staff and community members in the region of Gabu.

- A Water and Sanitation Consultant from the UNICEF Regional Office will support the reorganization of the strategy for active search and sanitation of the markets in Bissau town by dully trained brigades.

- UNICEF will provide the Ministry of Health with additional equipment to allow the disinfection brigades to continue their activities. More than 10,832 liters of bleach were distributed in Bissau during a 10-day operation initiated by UNICEF with NGO Nadel (Oct. 6th).

- Additional communication materials (posters, brochures) have been printed and are being released to the partners (Government and NGOs) for distribution. Also UNICEF staffs are involved in distribution in their respective areas, near churches, mosques, markets and other public places where large numbers of people assemble. 28 social mobilization and desinfection brigades were provided UNICEF-supported training in the region of Quinara (South). Also, UNICEF communication team are discussing with regional education authorities prevention strategies to be developped in schools. They are working with media to broadcast prevention messages (handwashing, stigma). Since Oct. 12th, RTP-Africa (Portuguese television section broadcasting in Guinea-Bissau) broadcasts spots about prevention (handwashing, water/food treatment). The State television will start on the week of Oct. 20th an information and sensitization campaign with traditional and religious leaders.

- An advocacy meeting with the main religious leaders took place on Sept. 11th to seek their involvement in the fight against cholera at family and community levels. The Minisrty of Education and UNICEF agreed on a plan to implement prevention activities in selected schools in the most affected areas in Bissau and Biombo regions. UNICEF will partner with NGOs to implement the plans in schools. On Oct. 15th, UNICEF supported the celebration of the First Global Hand-washing day in Guinea Bissau, linking this celebration to the fight against cholera, and launching in collaboration with the Ministry of Education the school campaign against cholera, as the new school year 2008-2009 is starting. The school campaign against cholera will focus on promoting hand-washing with soap or ash among school children, and will be facilitated by teachers, with the support of local NGOs.

- UNICEF is also cooperating with Medicus do Mundo Portugal on awareness-raising and active search activites in one of the most affected regions, Bombio.

- UNICEF-partner MSF España has started operations at the National Hospital in Bissau since early September. MSF Switzerland arrived early October to strengthen the team. On Oct. 12th, MSF Switzerland has started activities in Tombali, Quinara and Bijagos regions. Starting mid-October, MSF France / Epicentre will train the staff of the Epidemiogical Dept of the MoH on the management of statistical data bank.

- OXFAM America has provided 1,000 liters of bleach though NADEL NGO to distribute in Bissau city, along with awareness-raising activities. It will also rehabilitate 45 public water points in Bissau (as of Oct.15th, 20 have been rehabilitated).

- Starting week of 13th Oct, ICRC will support all treatment centers (patients and health workers) with provision of food. It will release 30 tons of rice and 2,000 liters of cooking oil.

- Other active actors include the Guinea Bissau Red Cross (awareness raising activities in Bubaque Island)


- Cholera killed 400 people and infected 25,000 across the country in 2005.

- Water and sanitation infrastructures in the capital date from the colonial time, and are totally deteriorated.

- In the capital only one in five people have access to tap water, which is not potable.