Senegal: Flooding triggers new upsurge of cholera

[This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]
DAKAR, 19 Sep 2005 (IRIN) - Senegal's months-long cholera epidemic has flared up once again following severe flooding this month in the suburbs of the capital Dakar, according to statistics from the Health Ministry on Monday.

The West African nation has registered a total 23,325 cases of cholera and 321 deaths in the last nine months, the ministry said, but the number of cases increased steeply this month, with 1,031 cases from 5-11 September and 1,110 from 12-18 September.

There were 25 deaths the first week of the month and 21 the next from the waterborne disease, which can kill within a day by inducing severe vomiting and diarrhoea.

"The floods have triggered an explosion in the number of cases," said Papa Salif Sow, who heads the infectious diseases ward at Dakar's Fann hospital.

From an average five cases a day through June, July and August, 'since the floods we've been seeing 45 cases of cholera per day," he told IRIN.

The Senegalese capital has been devastated by the heaviest rains seen in two decades, with 5,600 people displaced by floods and thousands still living with water around their ankles several weeks after the storms.

The disaster has centred on Dakar's impoverished outer suburbs where a lack of street drains and sewage, coupled with a breakdown in refuse collection due to the floods, has spawned disease.

"All the conditions are united for spreading the epidemic," Sow said. "Water, dirt, dead animals and leaking sewage. It's the same as in Louisana."

The outbreak of cholera late last year in the once tidy city unnerved the cash-strapped health authorities, who had been last faced by an epidemic in 1996.

The disease has been cutting a deadly trail across West Africa this year, with more than 500 people killed across the region. The World Health Organisation earlier this month said 31,259 cases of cholera had been reported in nine West African countries - Burkina Faso, Cote d'Ivoire, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Liberia, Mauritania, Mali, Niger and Senegal.

The worst hit has been tiny Guinea Bissau where 258 people have died and more than 15,000 cases have been reported. China, France, Portugal and the medical aid charity Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) have all rushed aid into the former Portuguese colony, still recovering from years of instability.


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