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Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Cameroon: Cholera epidemic - MSF supports overwhelmed local health authorities

Article via Medecins Sans Frontieres :

" A cholera epidemic has spread across all districts of Cameroon’s economic capital, Douala, home to 2.1 million people. The epidemic, which was officially declared 14 months ago, in September 2010, has peaked and troughed a number of times. In March and April, during the short rainy season, cholera peaked with an average of 120 cases per week. But since September the number of cases has been increasing further, with more than 400 cases per week reported in mid-October.

“The existing health structures were no longer able to care for patients adequately. We found two to three patients per bed, some lying on the ground or on benches, in an appalling condition,” says Dr Narcisse Wega, MSF’s emergency coordinator in Cameroon. “Health facilities had reached their limit and were no longer able to cope with the influx of patients.”

Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) teams carried out an assessment and within days opened a cholera treatment centre in the hospital of Laquintinie. Staff treated more than 350 patients in the first two weeks. “We transferred the overflow of patients from existing health facilities to the cholera treatment centre, and established a referral system with an ambulance service,” says Dr Wega.

In early November, national stocks of oral rehydration solution (ORS) ran out and patients had to be treated with a home-made solution. MSF has since provided the Ministry of Health with more than 120,000 sachets of ORS. “This is enough to treat around 12,000 patients ­– a figure beyond the number of expected cases,” says Dr Wega. Each of the city’s 11 existing cholera treatment units now incorporates an oral rehydration point."

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