Containing Cholera Around the World

ACF's water, sanitation, & hygiene programs address seasonal outbreaks of cholera

In recent months cholera outbreaks in southern Zimbabwe have killed hundreds and infected thousands. Action Against Hunger, which has been in Zimbabwe since 2002, has scaled up its response to help prevent a full-scale epidemic. We’re working with funding partner ECHO to provide safe water, emergency sanitation, and health and hygiene education for 30,000 affected people in the region.

Cholera is caused by the ingestion of the bacterium Vibrio cholerae along with contaminated water or food. In its most recent report, the World Health Organization estimates that over 2 million people contracted cholera in one year. Many of these cases go unreported, and thus, untreated. With quick action, death rates can be held below 1%. But given the slightest head start, cholera can rage out of control. That’s why quick-responding organizations like Action Against Hunger can make such a huge difference.

Cholera: A Chronic Threat

Action Against Hunger’s water, sanitation, and emergency treatment programs have already helped save thousands of cholera victims around the world. We have built new, safer camp latrines in Sudan, improved sanitation in Georgian shelters, and brought thousands of gallons of clean water to remote populations all over Africa and Asia. And yet, as long as families are forced to live under poor conditions, the threat of infection remains high. In the Democratic Republic of Congo, where civil war has forced over one million people from their homes, “access to clean water and sanitation in the camps remains a major issue,” reports country director Etienne Faubert. “The situation can deteriorate very quickly. Many cholera cases are still being reported in the area.”

The supplies we use to save lives can be amazingly cheap. For example, ten dollars can provide restorative fluids and sterile supplies to nurse a cholera-stricken child back to health. Other materials—the new wells and safe latrines needed to prevent recurring outbreaks—can cost thousands of dollars, while the communities that need them can barely afford to feed themselves.

Cholera poisons the waters of crowded slums and refugee camps; unchecked, it can kill in just 24 hours. With your ongoing help, we can continue to prevent deaths from cholera.