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Ministry of health and UNICEF launch a national campaign against cholera in Guinea Bissau

GUINEA BISSAU, Bissau, 20 April 2009 – A nationwide cholera prevention campaign is underway in Guinea Bissau, which last year saw an outbreak with more than 14,000 cases and the loss of 225 lives. “Stop Cholera!” is being organised by the Ministry of Health and UNICEF ahead of the rainy season, and is due to run until mid May.

Cholera is endemic in Guinea Bissau, and outbreaks occur almost every year during the rains. The campaign is supported by the media, local NGOs, teachers and artists.

The objective is to remind people about the simple, healthy practices that can prevent cholera and other diarrhoeal diseases, which are a major killer of children. These practices include washing hands with soap before handling food and after using the toilet, as well as chlorinating or boiling water before drinking it. Diarrhoeal diseases are the second cause of child mortality and morbidity in Guinea Bissau, after malaria, and only 30 per cent of the population is thought to follow an effective hygiene regime.

Crucial to the awareness campaign is the involvement of community-based organizations, national and international NGOs such as the Red Cross and Medecins du Monde, along with traditional and religious leaders. Young artistes composed a song especially for the effort, which is being broadcast on radio stations and is set to become a hit. 

During the launching ceremony, UNICEF Representative Silvia Luciani stressed the importance of preventing a further epidemic, rather than waiting for a new cholera outbreak to occur. “During the last epidemic lives could have been saved if simple preventive measures had been adopted”, she said, adding that ‘Cholera can be defeated if we all work together to pass on the message and make sure we know how to protect ourselves.’

The Minister of Health, Dr. Camilo Pereira, praised UNICEF for its support of this campaign. Dr. Pereira noted that key practices - such as hand-washing and water purification – that are crucial for cholera prevention.  “Please, let us not die of something we can prevent,” he said. “During the last cholera epidemic, mothers lost their children, spouses lost their partners, and children lost their parents. We cannot allow a new cholera epidemic in this country. Everything is in our hands!” said Dr. Pereira.

UNICEF is on the ground in over 150 countries and territories to help children survive and thrive, from early childhood through adolescence.  The world’s largest provider of vaccines for developing countries, UNICEF supports child health and nutrition, good water and sanitation, quality basic education for all boys and girls, and the protection of children from violence, exploitation, and AIDS.  UNICEF is funded entirely by the voluntary contributions of individuals, businesses, foundations and governments.

For more information, please contact:
Karyna Silva Gomes, UNICEF Bissau, Tel: + 245 203581, Mobile: +245 6716224, E mail: ksgomes@unicef.org




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