SWITZERLAND – The World Health Organization (WHO) has published a new situation report outlining the ongoing multi-country outbreak of cholera, with over 667,000 cases and 4,000 deaths.
The World Health Organization is currently responding with urgency to reduce deaths and contain outbreaks in countries around the globe.
In the latest situation report, WHO warned: “Preliminary data from Member States indicate that the number of cholera cases reported in 2023 as of 15 December has surpassed that of 2022.”
The health body of the United Nations outlined that the reported outbreak data should be interpreted with caution given the varying surveillance systems and capacity across countries.
Taking this into account, WHO is currently reviewing its response to cholera globally to identify key lessons and make evidence-based adjustments where needed to better coordinate activities in the coming months.
This year’s reported outbreak data follows the publication of the last situation report on the multi-country outbreak of cholera on 7 December 2023, which included data up to 15 November, and as of 15 December 2023.
The resurgence of cholera is characterized by the number, size, and concurrence of multiple outbreaks around the world, the spread to areas free of cholera for decades, and alarming high mortality rates.
According to the previous situation report, an outbreak of cholera or acute watery diarrhoea (AWD) was detected in one new country, Togo. In total, at least 30 countries have reported cases since 1 January 2023.
Based on the large number of outbreaks and their geographic expansion, alongside the shortage of vaccines and other resources, WHO continues to assess the risk at a global level as very high.
A major concern with cholera is its high rate of fatalities. The average case fatality ratio is currently almost at 3%, above the 2.3% reached in 2022, and far exceeding the acceptable level of below 1%.
The WHO situation report emphasizes the immediate necessity for decisive action to mitigate the climate change and conflict impact on human health while addressing triggers for cholera outbreaks such as poverty.
The report reveals a few compounding problems associated with extreme climate events, including floods, cyclones, and droughts, which reduce access to clean water and create an ideal environment for cholera to thrive.
This year’s situation report comes nearly a year after WHO classified the global resurgence of cholera as a grade 3 emergency, the highest internal level for a health emergency requiring a comprehensive response at the three levels of the organization.
In strange new patterns, cholera cases are making rounds in different parts of the world after the acute diarrheal illness was thought to be on the verge of eradication.
This increase in outbreaks and cases is stretching the global capacity to respond. There is a shortage of cholera tools, including vaccines.
Moreover, WHO cautioned that Africa is currently experiencing an exponential rise in cholera cases and cholera-associated deaths. The trend is expected to continue into this year without strong interventions.
The cholera outbreak has been detected in over 10 African countries, including Malawi, Mozambique, Zambia, Burundi, Cameroon, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Nigeria, Ethiopia, Kenya, and Somalia.