Bamako/Dakar, 16 July 2012 - Following the recent outbreak of cholera in Mali, UNICEF is sending 20,000 water, sanitation and hygiene kits to north of the country as part of its emergency response.
Approximately 120,000 people, including 60,000 children, will benefit from the supplies that include purification tablets, storage containers and other equipment to Gao and Timbuktu, in the northern regions of Mali, that are currently threatened by cholera. The supplies will be distributed through local partners working on the ground.
Since the start of the cholera epidemic about ten days ago, six children have died out of a total of 56 cases reported in northern Mali in Wabaria, Labbezanga and Ansongo in the region of Gao, on the banks of the River Niger. Although cholera is endemic in the Sahel countries, the widespread humanitarian crisis in the north combined with massive population displacement and the onset of the rainy season, raises fears of a sharp increase in cholera cases in the coming weeks.
“We must do everything we can to prevent the further spread of cholera in northern Mali, which is already severely affected both by fighting and a nutrition crisis," stressed Frederic Sizaret, Deputy Representative of UNICEF in Mali. "With these kits, 20,000 families in the north will have access to cleaner water and will be better able to protect themselves against the spread of the ‘dirty hands’ disease, especially children, who are the most vulnerable.”
As soon as the epidemic was announced, UNICEF sent an emergency convoy of three trucks carrying medicines and equipment to help partners in the Gao region respond to 500 cases of cholera.
Cholera prevention for 500,000 people is already underway in high-risk areas. Kit distribution is routinely accompanied by information sessions to explain how to treat water and encourage better hygiene.
Each of the 20,000 kits, which are to be distributed this week, contain collapsible hygienic jerry cans and buckets, in addition to a six-month supply of soap and water purification tablets sufficient for a family of six.
According to Frederic Sizaret, "The cholera epidemic on top of the nutrition and security crises currently faced by Mali, increases people's vulnerability and risks endangering current emergency response efforts. We urgently need more funding to respond to the scale of the crisis."
As of June 2012, only 12 per cent of the US$15.8 million needed by UNICEF Mali to respond to water, sanitation and hygiene emergency had been forthcoming.