In order to contain the cholera epidemic in Sierra Leone, the biggest in decades which has claimed 271 lives so far, the Red Cross has sought for urgent need for more funds.
"Although the cholera numbers are now stabilising ... this is not the time to pull back," said Amanda McClelland, an emergency health advisor for the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC).
AdvertisementSpeaking to reporters in Geneva, she cautioned that the cases were still spreading in districts and distant villages, down towards the Liberian border.
As of September 17, 18,919 cases had been reported across the country since the beginning of the year, with 273 deaths confirmed, according to the World Health Organisation's coordinator for the control of epidemic diseases, William Augusto Perea Caro.
"It is the largest epidemic we have had of cholera in Africa this year," he told the Geneva news conference.
Whereas the disease usually appears at the start of the rainy season in June or July, this year cases were reported at the beginning of the year and have spread rapidly in the densely-populated capital Freetown.
Poor hygiene and living conditions have contributed to the spread, leaving thousands stricken with vomiting, diarrhoea and stomach cramps and overwhelming Sierra Leone's health system.
On a positive note, the epidemic seemed to be winding down in Freetown and in the hard-hit coastal areas, Caro said, pointing out that there now were only about 100 cases reported each week, compared to more than 2,000 a week at the beginning of August.
But the disease was continuing to spread in the south and southwest of the country, he warned.
The Red Cross said it had deployed more than 700 volunteers "to work with communities at risk and provide cholera awareness and hygiene promotion activities."
"Nobody should be dying of cholera. Cholera is the easiest disease to treat... You are not supposed to die," Caro lamented.
McClelland agreed, pointing out that "this is a completely preventable disease."
"We knew this was coming. We knew there was cholera increasing since February," she said complaining that not enough attention had been paid so far at halting the epidemic.
"Cholera is not sexy. It doesn't get a lot of money. It doesn't get a lot of emphasis," she said.
The IFRC said the funds requested Thursday would be enough to help more than 3.5 million people directly or indirectly affected by the outbreak over the next six months.
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