More funding needed to fight deadly cholera outbreak in Guinea-Bissau - UN

The United Nations humanitarian wing today called for more funding to help overcome a major outbreak of cholera in Guinea-Bissau, which has killed at least 200 people since May and shows no signs of abating.

Over 12,000 cases have been reported so far this year and an average of more than 1,000 new cases are being diagnosed every month, the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said in an update. The number of fatalities has risen to 201.

The capital, Bissau, has been by far the hardest hit area, with about 7,600 cases reported in the city alone, while the city of Biombo and the Bijagos Islands have also recorded many cases.

OCHA said that while the UN system has mobilized more than $1 million to support the humanitarian response this year, greater funding is needed, especially in the area of early warning.

Guinea-Bissau is prone to outbreaks of cholera, and OCHA noted that it is the only country in the immediate region where the disease is not in decline. In Senegal, Mali, Benin and Niger, for example, cholera rates have fallen in recent years.

Cholera is mainly transmitted through contaminated water and food and long-term prevention depends on access to safe drinking water and adequate sanitation to prevent exposure. But the water and sanitation infrastructure in Guinea-Bissau is both limited and dilapidated.

UN agencies, including the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) and the World Health Organization (WHO), have been helping the health authorities and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) deal with the outbreak for some months, including by conducting hygiene awareness campaigns.

This year's outbreak is the worst in Guinea-Bissau since 2005, when more than 400 people died and at least 25,000 cases were diagnosed.