Sierra Leone has been hit with one of the worst outbreaks of cholera in recent history. Reuters notes that 217 people have perished because of the spread of the water-borne illness since the beginning of the year. 41 people have died from cholera in just the last two weeks. There have been around 12,000 cases reported in the West African country so far this year. It causes massive disruption in the digestive tract, including severe diarrhea and fever.
The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) has been at the head of efforts to stem the tide of the outbreak, setting aside around $1.14 million to provide sanitation and clean water to areas particularly hit by the bacteria.
The UK has now made headlines after announcing it will contribute £2 million or just over $3.1 million for the relief effort in Sierra Leone. The money will be deployed by the Department for International Development and the Guardian notes this will be the first time the UK’s Rapid Response Facility will be put into action. The funds will be directed towards providing clean water, sanitation and treatment for around 4,500 people who have contracted the bacteria.
A number of charitable organizations and private donors based in the United Kingdom, including Oxfam, Care International, and Standard Chartered Bank, will provide many of the supplies necessary to treat the affected population.
Cholera is a water-borne bacteria that quickly spreads throughout populations. Reuters notes that early, heavy rains combined with poor sanitation and drainage options, especially in the capital of Freetown, have contributed to the rapid spread of cholera. Around half of the reported cases have hailed from the capital and the surrounding neighborhoods.
The bacteria particularly affects children by causing dehydration through diarrhea and fever. Save the Children’s Heather Kerr told the BBC:
If we can’t get this outbreak under control quickly and comprehensively, it has the potential to kill many more children.
Children die very quickly from cholera if they don’t receive immediate medical help.
The sheer volume of people who are contracting the disease means that aid agencies need more funding now to respond more efficiently to this devastating outbreak.
The Department for International Development’s Andrew Mitchell told reporters this week that the UK is leading the way in providing the funding and humanitarian aid to Sierra Leone. It remains to be seen how many other global powers will jump on the humanitarian bandwagon in the coming weeks.
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