World Health Organisation (WHO) on Thursday said the number of cholera cases decreased globally by 60 per cent in 2018.
The organisation disclosed this in a statement issued from its headquarters in Geneva entitled: “Cholera Prevention and Control Report.”
The report pointed to an encouraging trend in cholera prevention and control in the world’s major hotspots, including Haiti, Somalia and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Cholera is an acute diarrhoeal infection caused by ingestion of food or water contaminated with the bacterium Vibrio cholerae.
It affects both children and adults and can kill within hours if left untreated.
WHO estimates that each year, cholera infects one million to four million people and claims up to 143,000 lives.
The statement noted that there were 499,447 cases of cholera and 2,990 deaths in 2018, reports from 34 countries showed.
It stated that while outbreaks were still ongoing in many countries, the caseload represented a significant downward trend in cholera transmission that had continued into 2019.
The statement quoted WHO Director-General, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, as saying: “the decrease we are seeing in several major cholera-endemic countries demonstrates increased engagement of countries.
“It demonstrates increased engagement of countries in global efforts to slow and prevent cholera outbreaks and shows the vital role of mass cholera vaccination campaigns.
“We continue to emphasise, however, that the long-term solution toward ending cholera lies in increasing access to clean drinking water and providing adequate sanitation and hygiene.”
The statement quoted Dr Dominique Legros, who heads WHO’s cholera programme in Geneva, as saying: “the global decrease in case numbers we are observing appears to be linked to large-scale vaccination campaigns.
“It is linked to vaccination campaign and countries beginning to adopt the Global Roadmap to 2030 strategy in their national cholera action plans.
“We must continue to strengthen our efforts to engage all cholera-endemic countries in this global strategy to eliminate cholera.”
The statement further disclosed that nearly 18 million doses of Oral Cholera Vaccine (OCV) were shipped to 11 countries in 2018.
It said since the OCV stockpile was created in 2013, almost 60 million doses were shipped worldwide.
It added that “Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, provided funding for the purchase of the vaccine and financial support for the global vaccination drive.
“The Global Task Force on Cholera Control launched the Global Roadmap strategy for effective long-term cholera control and elimination in October 2017.’’
According to the statement, the Global Roadmap aims to reduce cholera deaths by 90 per cent and eliminate transmission in up to 20 countries by 2030.
“The Global Roadmap provides clear guidance on how to prevent and, ultimately, eliminate cholera.
“Every death from cholera is preventable with the tools we have today.
“We are seeing the results of countries reporting – and acting – on cholera. And these countries are making remarkable gains in control and prevention, the statement further quoted Tedros, as saying.
The new report shows several countries, including Nigeria, Zambia, South Sudan, United Republic of Tanzania, Somalia, Bangladesh and Zambia made significant progress.
It stated that the countries were making significant progress in developing national action plans within the framework of the Global Roadmap strategy.
In addition, the statement stated that WHO, in collaboration with partners, provided support to ministries of health in countries affected by cholera to implement immediate, long-term cholera control.
It said the support included surveillance, outbreak response and preventive measures such as OCV and risk communication.
In 2018, WHO country offices worked with governments to respond to major outbreaks in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Nigeria, Uganda, Yemen, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
WHO also worked with countries on the transition from outbreak response to longer-term cholera control and elimination in Haiti, United Republic of Tanzania (Zanzibar) and Zambia.