Cholera claims five lives

[Iraq] Basra cholera victims.
Six of the eight people in Iraq who have died of cholera since 20 August have been children (IRIN)

Five people have died in a cholera outbreak that has hit Baghdad and the southern provinces since late August and at least 22 other cases have been confirmed, Iraqi Health Ministry said on 10 September.

"In total we have diagnosed 27 cholera cases so far, including the five fatalities: two in Baghdad, two in Babil province and the fifth one in Maysan province and there are dozens more suspected cases,” Ihssan Jaafar, director-general of the public health directorate, told IRIN.

Jaafar said the two fatalities in Babil province, about 100km south of Baghdad, were a 10-year-old girl and a 61-year-old man. A three-year-old boy died of cholera in Maysan. The province is about 350km south of Baghdad. Baghdad’s two cases were one adult and a child.

Jaafar contested figures issued by local officials in Babil province, which put confirmed cases in dozens and fatalities at more than 10.

“The ministry is the only authorised party to issue such figures as we are in daily contact with all health officials in all areas,” said Jaafar.

Poor services

Meanwhile, the World Health Organization (WHO) has called for immediate measures to improve water and sanitation infrastructure, which it said was the main reason for the disease spreading.

“Experience has shown that long-term prevention of cholera depends on access to safe water and adequate sanitation to prevent exposure and interrupt transmission,” WHO said in a statement on 10 September.

“Improving water and sanitation infrastructures is therefore a long-term goal of WHO and its partners in Iraq and, in times of outbreaks, it is essential that immediate measures, such as water treatment at household level, health education and proper case management, are implemented rapidly,” it added.

Cholera is a gastro-intestinal disease typically spread by contaminated water. It can cause severe diarrhoea which, in extreme cases, can lead to fatal dehydration. It can be prevented by treating drinking water with chlorine and by improving hygiene conditions.

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This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions

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