NEW YORK, United States of America, 15 May 2013 – As part of its effort to reduce cholera in the world, UNICEF has responded to the growing threat of this disease by launching the UNICEF cholera toolkit, which will help UNICEF staff and partners prevent, prepare for and respond to the disease.
"The toolkit is very exciting, because it's bringing all the different parts that we need to be effective against cholera together," UNICEF Chief of Health Mickey Chopra said.
Each year an estimated 3 million to 5 million cholera cases kill between 100,000 and 120,000 people. Half of these victims are children under 5 years old. Only 5 per cent to 10 per cent of cases are reported, which makes early detection and early action difficult.
The toolkit launch at UNICEF House in New York will be the culmination of a thorough review of existing guidance and global consultation with UNICEF at all levels and from all divisions in Africa, along with main partners in the fight against cholera, such as the World Health Organization as the lead agency.
"What the toolkit does is harvest the best and most up-to-date knowledge in the field and brings it together in one location," said UNICEF Chief of Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Sanjay Wijesekera. "It looks at the evidence. It looks at practices that have produced results."
Cholera spread across the world from the Ganges Delta in India in the nineteenth century. Over the next century, six pandemics killed millions of people. The seventh pandemic started in South Asia in 1961 and is still affecting us.
UNICEF has serious concerns that cholera is coming back with renewed strength.
"Due to a variety of factors ranging from climate change through to the fact that inequities are widening and poverty is deepening in many settings, cholera is rearing its head again," said Dr. Chopra.
Transmitted by contaminated water and food, cholera has always been an emblem of poverty and inequity. It can kill in hours, but in the majority of cases is easily and cheaply treated with oral rehydration salts if detected early.
Those who fall ill do so because they lack health care, safe water and sanitation.
"It is the most vulnerable who get it, and that indicates that's where the focus of our programming and our intervention need to be," said Mr. Wijesekera.
Western and Central Africa is one of the areas with the highest risk. In 2012 more than 80,000 cases were reported, and nearly 1,500 people died.
UNICEF is uniquely placed to intervene in such areas with a multisectoral, comprehensive approach.
"The toolkit is a game changer for us in terms of cholera prevention and response," said UNICEF Director of Programmes Nicholas Alipui. "We've got to use resources like this to train local communities in health literacy and mobilize people. Otherwise, whatever results we achieve will not be long lasting."