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WHO Releases $16 Million to Address Cholera Outbreaks

The World Health Organization (WHO) has allocated $16 million from the WHO Contingency Fund for Emergencies to combat cholera outbreaks, as announced by WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros Ghebreyesus during an online news conference.

Dr. Ghebreyesus stated that the WHO’s response to cholera includes providing essential supplies, coordinating on-the-ground efforts with partners, supporting countries in the detection, prevention, and treatment of cholera, and educating the public on protective measures.

He emphasized that while the WHO has appealed for $160 million to support these efforts, addressing cholera fundamentally requires ensuring universal access to safe water and sanitation, a recognized human right.

The Director-General noted that new WHO data revealed a significant increase in cholera cases in 2022 compared to 2021, with preliminary data for 2023 indicating a potential worsening of the situation. In 2023, 28 countries have reported cholera cases, compared to 16 during the same period in 2022. The most concerning outbreaks are occurring in Ethiopia, Haiti, Iraq, and Sudan.

While progress has been made in Southern African countries like Malawi, Mozambique, and Zimbabwe, they remain at risk as the rainy season approaches. Dr. Ghebreyesus highlighted that the worst-affected countries and communities are often impoverished, lacking access to safe drinking water and sanitation facilities, and experiencing shortages of cholera vaccine and essential supplies. Additionally, healthcare workers are stretched thin due to multiple disease outbreaks and other health emergencies.

On the topic of COVID-19, Dr. Ghebreyesus expressed concern about rising hospitalizations and ICU admissions, particularly in the Americas and Europe, as winter approaches in the northern hemisphere. He also noted that vaccination rates for at-risk groups remain low, with only one-third of the global population having received booster doses. He stressed the importance of sustaining systems established to respond to COVID-19 to ensure ongoing protection, testing, and treatment for COVID-19 and other infectious threats. These systems encompass collaborative surveillance, community protection, scalable healthcare, access to countermeasures, and coordination.

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