The repeated outbreaks of cholera in the African region are an important public health issue. The disease has been linked to increased infant mortality. Nevertheless, despite the prevalence of cholera in the area, many countries continue to face this public health threat. The global cholera pandemic of 2004 resulted in several hundred thousand deaths. Moreover, the spread of a cholera epidemic in the African region is highly predictable.
Although the disease can easily be contained, a delayed response can lead to high death and untoward suffering. In addition, the repeated outbreaks of cholera in the African region have a negative economic impact. A WHO report estimated that an outbreak of cholera in Africa causes an estimated $2.3 billion in losses. Moreover, a large proportion of cholera deaths occur in adolescent girls.
The outbreaks of cholera in the African region began in the early 1970s, though they were self-limiting at the time. The World Health Organization reported the first small cases of cholera in Uganda in the late 1970s. However, the number of cholera cases in Uganda exploded in the late 1990s and almost 90% of the country’s districts were affected by an outbreak in 1997/1998. The Uganda government worked with WHO and UNICEF to implement preventive measures.
Cholera outbreaks are common in the African region, and the slow response and lack of resources to respond to them has resulted in widespread death and untoward suffering. In low income countries, these outbreaks have weakened health systems and resulted in large economic losses. A recent study published in the journal Scientific Reports noted that the real total economic impact of cholera in the African Region (WHO AFR) is $2.4 billion.
The repeat outbreaks in the African region are highly costly and have a high toll. The lack of effective health systems in the region can prevent these epidemics by targeting high-incidence districts and country-specific programmes. These measures, however, can’t be applied to all countries in the region. In fact, it’s important to consider the regional impact of cholera in the African region.
While the cholera outbreaks in the continent are common, the extent of the epidemics has also been underestimated. In Nigeria, the disease first appeared in the early 1970s, but was self-limited. In the late 1990s, cholera outbreaks became an annual event. In fact, in one outbreak in Uganda, 90 percent of the district was affected. The Ugandan government worked with the World Health Organization and UNICEF to implement control measures to combat the disease.