• UNICEF is warning that the crisis in the North of Mali has dramatically increased the risks from diseases such as cholera, measles and polio, and could increase maternal and infant deaths.

    George Fom Ameh, Health Manager for UNICEF in Bamako, the capital of Mali, says the risks of the spread of vaccine-preventable diseases such as polio and measles have increased. A scheduled polio campaign failed to take place last week in the North, and with people moving across borders, the disease risks being imported from neighbouring countries where there are cases.

    More than half of all health facilities have been vandalised and the number of health professionals is down to an estimated 18-27 per cent of previous levels. There is also concern about a lack of skilled care for women during pregnancy and childbirth, increasing the risk of maternal and newborn deaths.

    Nicolas Osbert, manager for Water, Health, Sanitation and Hygiene for UNICEF in Mali, says a rise in cholera cases is also likely.

    In 2011, 55 people died from more than 1,300 cases in five regions: Gao and Timbuktu in the North; Segou and Mopti in the centre; and Kayes in the West. By far the largest numbers – 1,000 cases – were in the North. Cholera is endemic in the country and with municipal water supplies in the North hit by a scarcity of fuel, UNICEF is preparing for a rise in the number of cases.

    In 2011 West and Central Africa suffered from one of the largest cholera epidemics in recent years with more than 105,000 cases in 17 countries and over 2,800 deaths.

    Cholera prevention measures will be needed for some 500,000 people in Mali in areas at risk. These include increasing the chlorine level in water networks, educating communities, and improving access to clean water, health, and sanitation facilities.

    UNICEF has already distributed emergency supplies – which include soap and household water treatment supplies – for 10,000 people in the regions of Gao, Timbuktu, Segou and Mopti and will preposition additional supplies before the rainy season starts in July. UNICEF is also planning a public education campaign on cholera and will ask for additional resources to deal with this critical issue.

    In the South of the country, home to 87 per cent of the children at risk of severe acute malnutrition, UNICEF is delivering ready-to-use therapeutic food. UNICEF continues to support the Ministry of Health in providing medicines and health care for the populations in the South.

    UNICEF has appealed for £20 million for its emergency response in Mali for the next six months, and so far has received just over half of that amount. An additional £2.5 million is needed to tackle cholera.

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    For further information, please contact:

    Ju-Lin Tan, Media Manager, UNICEF UK, +44 (0)20 7375 6069, +44 (0)7814 549 071, julint@unicef.org.uk

    About UNICEF

    UNICEF is the world’s leading organisation working for children and their rights in more than 190 countries. As champion of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, UNICEF works to help every child realise their full potential. Together with our partners, UNICEF delivers health care, nutrition, education and protection to children in urgent need, while working with governments to ensure they deliver on their promise to protect and promote the rights of every child. UNICEF relies entirely on voluntary donations from individuals, governments, institutions and corporations, and is not funded by the UN budget. For more information, please visit www.unicef.org.uk.

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