A cholera epidemic sweeping through west and central Africa, one of the largest in the region’s history, has killed at least 2,466 and infected 85,000 more, this year alone, according to the United Nations.
Unicef, the UN Children’s Fund, said on Tuesday the virulent disease was causing an “unacceptably high” rate of fatalities and called for a redoubling of efforts from government agencies.
“The size and the scale of the outbreaks mean the region is facing one of the biggest epidemics in its history,” UNICEF spokeswoman Marixie Mercado told a news briefing in Geneva.
Five countries - Cameroon, Chad, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ghana, Nigeria - account for 90 per cent of overall cases and deaths in more than 20 countries.
Chad is experiencing its largest cholera outbreak ever recorded, while nine out of 10 Cameroonian districts are reporting cases. In the western Democratic Republic of Congo, fatality rates as a consequence of the disease exceed five per cent.
Aid agencies say that with proper treatment fewer than one per cent of cholera patients should die.
Cholera, an acute intestinal infection often linked to contaminated drinking water or food, causes severe diarrhoea and vomiting and is prevelant among poorer nations.
Access rates to water and sanitation in central and west Africa are among the lowest in the world, with all 24 countries in the region failing to meet Millennium Development Goal targets for sanitation, according to the UN.
Unicef said that many outbreaks had begun outside of the typical cholera season and now affected countries where the disease is not endemic.
It feared further spread in coastal areas of central Africa where higher than normal rainfall was expected until the end of the year.
It identified three major cross-border cholera outbreaks: the Lake Chad Basin (Chad, Cameroon, Nigeria and Niger), the West Congo Basin (Democratic Republic of Congo, Republic of Congo and the Central African Republic) and Lake Tanganyika (Democratic Republic of Congo and Burundi).
Unicef also said it was providing treatment kits and conducting community awareness campaigns on hygiene as poor sanitation is the underlying cause for cholera outbreaks.
The World Health Organisation is providing technical assistance and helping authorities improve disease surveillance to detect cases, spokesman Tarik Jasarevic said.
There an estimated 3-5 million cholera cases and about 100,000-120,000 deaths worldwide each year.
Alternatives-Cameroun is an organization working for equality, tolerance, and respect for people who suffer from social exclusion.
Alternatives-Cameroun was founded by young Cameroonian professionals fighting for human rights in Cameroon, especially for the rights of people who have sexual relations with people of the same sex.
Our organization has been a legally recognized non-profit organization in Cameroon since October 27, 2006.
The vision we have is a Cameroonian society, which is principled and strong, democratic and tolerant, that affirms individual as well as social and economic rights. This society should be dynamic and self-promoting.
My name is Alice N’Kom, and here in Cameroon I am one of the only attorneys who defends people who’ve been jailed because they are gay.
In the last two weeks violence against gay people in Cameroon has skyrocketed to unprecedented levels: the situation is quickly becoming a crisis. The president of Cameroon can put a stop to this, and if he feels enough pressure he will do so.
I’m watching police in Cameroon conduct an anti-gay crackdown - over 10 people have been arrested on charges of “homosexuality” in the last month. One of them, Jean-Claude, has been sentenced to 3 years in prison merely for sending a text message to another man. I’ve heard countless recent stories of homophobic violence throughout the country. I’m 66, and in ten years of defending lesbian, gay, bi and trans (LGBT) people in Cameroon, it has never been this bad.
Only one person can put an end to this gay bashing - President Paul Biya. He can stop the escalating crisis of homophobic roundups and attacks, and he can immediately release those still in prison and call for the end of Cameroon’s laws against homosexuality.
Time is running out. I’m headed to Cameroon’s capital, Yaoundé, to confront the President with these demands. He will not be able to ignore a powerful outcry from every corner of the globe. I am counting on your help.
Please add your voice to our urgent appeal now: www.allout.org/cameroon
Alice N’Kom, Cameroonian attorney
Founder of the Association for the Defense of LGBT Rights in Cameroon (ADEFHO)
in partnership with Alternatives-Cameroun
Find more information here :
Cameroon homosexuality trial condemned - The Guardian, 17 August 2011
Cameroon: Call to end ‘feminine men’ homosexual trial - BBC, 19 August 2011
Cameroon to toughen laws against gays - Agence France-Presse, 20 August 2011
Cameroon charges four more with homosexuality - Agence France-Presse, 27 August 2011
Criminalizing Identities - a joint report by Human Rights Watch, IGLHRC, Adefho and Alternatives-Cameroun on the criminalization of homosexuality in Cameroon, November 2010
STAND WITH ALICE N’KOM: CURB LGBT DISCRIMINATION IN CAMEROON
[ Alice N’Kom, age 66, and her colleagues call on the online community to stand on the side of human rights and stop the homophobic roundups and attacks targeted at Cameroonian citizens for the past month. Send a message to President Biya to ask for the immediate release of those arrested for being gay, and an end to Cameroon’s laws against homosexuality. SIGN YOUR NAME ON THE PETITION Let’s to get 50,000 signatures, x Mara ]