Oxfam calls for aid to tackle Sierra Leone cholera outbreak

International humanitarian agency Oxfam has called for a rapid scale-up of aid effort to tackle Sierra Leone’s escalating cholera outbreak.

Sierra Leone is in the grip of one of the worst cholera outbreaks in its history with death rates almost double emergency thresholds and the number of people affected likely to increase significantly in September, Oxfam said.

Almost 12,000 people have contracted the disease across 10 of the country’s 13 districts, with 217 deaths recorded as of 20th August, giving a cholera fatality rate of 1.8 percent, beyond the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) emergency threshold of 1 percent.  

According to the WHO,  more than 32,000 people are likely to contract cholera during this outbreak.

Oxfam is calling on donor governments and the humanitarian community to increase financial and humanitarian support to the Government of Sierra Leone and its people to assist the supply of clean water and to fund adequate sanitation and hygiene measures, as well as medicine to treat those affected by the escalating crisis.

Initial funding requirements were estimated at USD 5 million, half of which have been met by an allocation from the Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF).  However, given the severity of the outbreak, this figure will substantially increase.

Grace Ommer, Country Director of Oxfam in Sierra Leone, said: “The cholera outbreak is devastating the lives of vulnerable people such as women and child-headed families, disabled and HIV positive people and the elderly. Cholera is a highly preventable and treatable disease, and yet people are dying across the country due to a lack of safe drinking water, inadequate sanitation, and insufficient access to quick and effective medical care. Unless the humanitarian community steps up its response, cholera will continue to endanger more lives.”

Oxfam is currently reaching 67,000 people in Freetown through emergency water chlorination and is seeking USD 4.2 million to help up to 500,000 people with cholera prevention kits, water purification kits and public information campaigns on how to prevent and seek early treatment of cholera.

Oxfam will also be supporting local government efforts to respond to the outbreak.