16 August 2012: Government and UN partners are concerned that Ghana could be engulfed by its most recent cholera outbreak, which has claimed more than 50 lives since January 2012. With more than 5,000 cases reported nationally, the epidemic has been fuelled by poor sanitation, lack of public awareness and the onset of the rainy season, which has led to the contamination of drinking-water sources.
Traditional beliefs and practices, such as the use of herbal remedies, and spiritual associations with health and illness are barriers to improving hygiene. In many rural communities, illnesses such as diarrhoea are perceived as something to endure, rather than a potential danger. The entire population is at risk, but children are the most vulnerable due to their exposure to cholera at school and during play.
The spread of cholera urgently needs to be stopped through effective case management, drinkingwater treatment and increased public awareness, particularly in schools. Evidence-based behaviour-change activities focusing on key hygiene messages are also needed to promote critical life-saving behaviours.
In response, the United Nations Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) provided US$312,440 to two United Nations agencies to support cholera response in Ghana.
The UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) received $201,160 for national public information and social mobilization activities, and to disinfect 1,500 unprotected wells and distribute household water-purification tablets.
UNICEFsupported interventions will target 40,000 people, with an emphasis on schools to address children’s vulnerability. The World Health Organization (WHO) received $111,280 to enhance early cholera detection through community-based surveillance and prompt clinical diagnosis.