10 July 2012

As the rainy season unfolds across the Sahel, cholera is putting more and more children at risk. 

Last week, an outbreak in northern Mali left two children dead and 34 other people sick. So far in 2012, cholera has killed nearly 700 people in West and Central Africa.

Since mid-June, the number of people affected by the water-borne disease has shot up in the Sahel, especially in Niger’s regions bordering the Niger River. 

Niger is home to about 400,000 children who are expected to require life-saving treatment for severe malnutrition this year. 

"Malnutrition, displacement, and now rains in some parts of the Sahel create the ideal breeding ground for cholera, which hits young children hardest", said Manuel Fontaine, UNICEF Acting Regional Director for West and Central Africa.

"Unless we step up our efforts immediately, cholera will continue to claim the lives of the most vulnerable families in the Sahel and spread to other populated areas with a devastating impact."

Before, during and after cholera breaks out, UNICEF works with governments, sister agencies and local partners across the region to expand access to improved water and sanitation, educate families on how to prevent the spread of the disease and equip health facilities with supplies, skills and expertise. 

"You can’t treat malnutrition and ignore cholera", said Mr. Fontaine.

"But without more funding soon, we risk undoing a lot of work already done to treat and prevent malnutrition in children."

 
In Niger, 22-month-old Fati is treated for malnutrition with special peanut paste. It's children like Mani who are particularly at risk from cholera during the rainy season. © UNICEF/NYHQ2012-0192/Olivier Asselin
In Niger, 22-month-old Fati is treated for malnutrition with special peanut paste. It's children like Mani who are particularly at risk from cholera during the rainy season.© UNICEF/NYHQ2012-0192/Olivier Asselin

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