AFRICA/GHANA - Cholera epidemic affects 5,000 people: worst in 10 years

Thursday, 7 April 2011

Accra (Agenzia Fides) – Health officials in Ghana are worried the rainy season, due to start in April, will fuel the spread of cholera, which has killed at least 69 people and stricken more than 5,000 in the past few months, states a release from UN press agency IRIN. Five of Ghana's ten regions are affected, with Accra seeing the highest number of deaths to date - 36.
While Ghana has not pinpointed the source of the cholera bacterium, top health officials say poor sanitation systems and hygiene habits - including open defecation - are largely to blame for the epidemic, which they say is the worst in a decade. Authorities say it is time to crack down on open
defecation, irregular rubbish collection and unhygienic food stands. Accra's Korle-bu Teaching Hospital - Ghana's main hospital - is overwhelmed and lacks materials and space to cope with the epidemic, according to Philip Amoo, Korle-bu head of public health. IRIN saw a number of cholera patients lying on benches in hospital corridors.
The government recently released five million cedis (US$3.2 million) for cholera control efforts. About 59 percent of Ghana's 24 million people, and about half of Accra's 3.2 million, have access to potable water, according to the Ministry of Water Resources, Works and Housing. Contracted through contaminated food or water, cholera generally occurs in the rainy season but outbreaks can occur when it is dry, according to the World Health Organization. Ghana has two rainy seasons - April to July and September to November. But this year torrential rains came in January. However this year torrential rains hit in January. (AP) (7/4/2011 Agenzia Fides)