MSF responds to cholera outbreak in Liberia

Cholera is endemic in Liberia. Over the previous years, Monrovia has seen repeated outbreaks during the rainy season. The lack of access to clean water and poor hygiene conditions are contributing to the recurrence and severity of outbreaks.
Cholera cases in the Liberian capital Monrovia are increasing sharply. Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) has restarted its support of the cholera treatment unit at JFK Hospital and is scaling up activities. “Last week, we had 125 severe cases admitted to the cholera treatment centre, compared to 46 the week before, said MSF Head of Mission Tom Quinn. After a request from the Ministry of Health, MSF restarted its support to the cholera treatment unit at JFK Hospital in late July, when the number of cases began to increase and the hospital was unable to cope with the influx of patients. By the end of this week, the unit will be running at its full capacity of 107 beds. No specific origin of the outbreak has been identified and cases are coming from many areas of the city. Cholera is endemic in Liberia. Over the previous years, Monrovia has seen repeated outbreaks during the rainy season. The lack of access to clean water and poor hygiene conditions are contributing to the recurrence and severity of outbreaks. “Despite recent improvements providing stand-pipe water to some areas of the city, the vast majority of the population have extremely limited access to safe drinking water. This, coupled with the appalling sanitation situation in the city reinforces the concern that the number of cholera cases will again rise this year,” said Tom Quinn. During last year’s outbreak in Monrovia, MSF also supported the cholera treatment unit at JFK Hospital. More than 3,300 patients were treated. Operations ceased in the end of 2005. Should the number of cases exceed the capacity of the treatment unit at JFK Hospital, MSF will be ready to activate an additional treatment centre at Benson Hospital during next week. MSF is also responding to a cholera outbreak in Grand Bassa county. So far, 190 cases and three deaths have been reported. Activities include treatment, health education, and chlorination of wells and drinking water. Being a highly contagious disease, transmitted by contaminated water and food, cholera sometimes causes large-scale epidemics. Without correct treatment mortality is almost 50 percent. Poor sanitation, crowded living conditions and lack of clean water are factors that cause the disease to spread.