The World Health Organization (WHO) has allocated 16 million dollars from its Contingency Fund for Emergencies to combat cholera, as announced by Dr. Tedros Ghebreyesus, WHO's Director-General, during an online news conference.
Ghebreyesus emphasized the WHO's efforts, including supplying essential resources, coordinating on-ground responses with partners, aiding countries in cholera detection, prevention, and treatment, and educating people on self-protection. They have also appealed for 160 million dollars to support these initiatives.
However, Ghebreyesus underscored that the ultimate solution to cholera lies in ensuring universal access to safe water and sanitation, recognized as a human right globally. Recent WHO data indicates a significant increase in cholera cases in 2022 compared to 2021, with preliminary data for 2023 suggesting an even graver situation.
In 2023, 28 countries have reported cholera cases, compared to 16 in the same period in 2022, with Ethiopia, Haiti, Iraq, and Sudan facing particularly severe outbreaks. While progress has been made in Southern African countries like Malawi, Mozambique, and Zimbabwe, the upcoming rainy season poses risks.
Ghebreyesus highlighted that the worst-affected regions are impoverished areas lacking access to clean water and sanitation facilities. These regions also struggle with shortages of oral cholera vaccine, medical supplies, and overburdened healthcare workers dealing with multiple disease outbreaks.
Regarding COVID-19, Ghebreyesus expressed concern about rising hospitalizations and ICU admissions in the Americas and Europe, especially as the northern hemisphere enters winter. Vaccination rates among at-risk groups remain low, with only one-third receiving booster doses.
While COVID-19 may no longer be as acute as it was two years ago, Ghebreyesus stressed the importance of maintaining response systems and infrastructure for testing, treatment, and protection against COVID-19 and other infectious threats, including collaborative surveillance, community protection, and access to countermeasures.