1. Home
  2. Africa
  3. West Africa
  4. Sierra Leone

Cholera in the capital

People affected by Cholera have continuous watery diarrhea, so beds have a hole with a bucket under, to facilitate the treatment which is rehydration
Lits utilisés pour faciliter le traitement du choléra (photo d’archive) (Teseum/Flickr)

Freetown, the capital of Sierra Leone, is now the centre of a cholera epidemic after the first confirmed case surfaced in the north of the country in February.
On 18 July, the first reported case in Freetown came from Marbella, a slum area near the centre of town where a high volume of people constantly visit and trade in the busy 24-hour market. The Ministry of Health says they are seeing 40 new cases a day in this area.
In Freetown and the surrounding Western Area, 410 cases and 9 deaths have been reported. The fatality rate is at 2 percent.
“The fatality rate is very high,” Sierra Leone’s Minister of Health, Zainab Bangura, told a press conference on Monday. “It is pretty serious. At the moment our strategy is to contain it [the disease] and to clean the environment.” Bangura said emergency measures were being put in place.
Dr Alemu Wondimagegnehu, Director of the World Health Organization (WHO) in Sierra Leone, told IRIN this is the biggest outbreak since 2007. “For a population of six million, 4,000 cases are significant - this is big.”
Since January, Sierra Leone has seen 4,249 cases of cholera and 76 people have died from the waterborne disease. Wondimagegnehu said the epidemic has not yet reached its peak. Critics say the Ministry of Health in Sierra Leone was slow to respond to the outbreak, and prevention efforts in the country are weak.

WEST AFRICA: Cholera - what's working?
FREETOWN/DAKAR, 10 July 2012 (IRIN) - After years of cyclical cholera outbreaks in West Africa, water and sanitation standards are still notoriously low in most of the affected countries, but in some areas the cholera response is working better now than in the past. IRIN spoke to governments and aid agencies about innovations and traditional wisdom for preventing cholera. Full report

The government has set up three emergency centres in hot spots around the city to handle new cases and all government clinics are providing free treatment for cholera.
But in Marbella, a high-density area that is not accessible by road and is packed with traders and dwellings, many residents do not have access to toilets and live close to each other.
“The situation in Marbella, with lack of sanitation and hygiene, lack of safe drinking water and the [poor] management of food in the market area - all these are risk factors for [the outbreak] to escalate,” Wondimagegnehu said.

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

Share this article
Join the discussion

Help us be the transformation we’d like to see in the news industry

The current journalistic model is broken: Audiences are demanding that the hierarchical, elite-led system of news-gathering and presentation be dismantled in favour of a more inclusive and holistic model based on more equitable access to information and more nuanced and diverse narratives.

The business model is also broken, with many media going bankrupt during the pandemic – despite their information being more valuable than ever – because of a dependence on advertisers. 

Finally, exploitative and extractive practices have long been commonplace in media and other businesses.

We think there is a better way. We want to build something different.

Our new five-year strategy outlines how we will do so. It is an ambitious vision to become a transformative newsroom – and one that we need your support to achieve.

Become a member of The New Humanitarian by making a regular contribution to our work - and help us deliver on our new strategy.

Become a member of The New Humanitarian

Support our journalism and become more involved in our community. Help us deliver informative, accessible, independent journalism that you can trust and provides accountability to the millions of people affected by crises worldwide.