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13 September 2012: A cholera epidemic in Niger has contributed to more than 70 deaths and 3,500 cases since the beginning of the year. The current epidemic is the worst the country has witnessed in more than 40 years, according to United Nations reports.

The recent epidemic broke out in the western region of Tillaberi in January 2012. This region continues to be the most affected. The outbreak can be traced to poor sanitation and hygiene, and contaminated drinking water. Humanitarian partners are concerned about the arrival of the rainy season, as recent flooding in July has further accelerated the spread of the disease among communities living near the Niger river.

Cholera outbreaks are recurrent in Niger. This year, its impact has worsened due to the displacement of thousands of people fleeing the conflict in northern Mali. So far, over 55,000 refugees have arrived in Niger. Refugees have poor access to health services and have settled in regions impacted by the current food and nutrition crisis.  The spread of cholera to refugee camps is particularly worrying for health officials. The highly contagious illness can decimate refugee camps, as people reside in crowded and unsanitary conditions.

In response, the United Nations Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) has provided US$1,099,770 to the World Health Organization (WHO) and the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) to support Government efforts to prevent and treat cholera victims, and strengthen disease surveillance throughout the country.

WHO received $649,586 to treat people affected by cholera through the delivery of medicine, rapid tests and technical support to medical personnel working in cholera treatment centres.

UNICEF received $450,184 to improve access to clean water, improved hygiene and sanitation, in collaboration with national partners.

For more information about the United Nations Central Emergency Response Fund, visit the CERF website : http://www.unocha.org/cerf