World facing biggest cholera surge in 20 years – WHO

Lazy eyes listen


Economic crises, climate change, and the aftermath of the Covid-19 pandemic have created ideal conditions for cholera to thrive in high-risk countries, the World Health Organization (WHO) has warned, following a sharp increase in the illness in at least 30 countries.

The scale of the various outbreaks increased dramatically in 2022, following several years of decline, according to the WHO. Between January and October of last year, 29 countries reported cases of the disease, up from 23 the previous year, with those figures expected to rise in 2023.

“We haven’t seen this many countries with large outbreaks occurring at the same time in at least 20 years.” Philippe Barboza, WHO’s cholera emergency response coordinator

“Most of the major outbreaks we’re looking at are all driven by major, unusual climate events,” he added, noting that southern African countries are especially vulnerable as they face a third consecutive year of heavy rain and cyclones caused by the La Nina weather phenomenon.

Last year, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus stated that the effects of climate change had “turbocharged” the impact of cholera.

Syria declared its first outbreak of the disease in 15 years last year, and the situation has worsened since the earthquakes last month. For the first time in 30 years, Lebanon is dealing with a similar problem as it struggles to combat the disease amid economic collapse.

According to experts, the problem has also been exacerbated by the fact that various countries’ health services have been overwhelmed by Covid-19 cases, as efforts to combat cholera outbreaks have been paused throughout the pandemic.

“Cholera can and should be controlled,” explained Barboza. “It isn’t that expensive to provide access to healthcare. It is a fundamental human right.”

Cholera is a severe disease spread by consuming contaminated food or water. If left untreated, it can result in death within hours. According to WHO data, approximately 143,000 people die from the disease worldwide each year.