Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Govt adopts 100-day contingency plan to fight cholera

By Edmund Smith-Asante

A 100-day contingency plan has been put in place by the government to fight the outbreak of cholera in the country.

The Chairman of the National WASH in Emergencies (WinE) Technical Working Group, Mr Kweku Quansah, who made this known in Accra yesterday, said GH¢213,000 had been set aside for activities to deal with the epidemic across the country.

Speaking at the group’s first meeting since the outbreak of the disease five weeks ago, Mr Quansah said the amount was in respect of short-term measures lined up to deal with the outbreak.

He said many contractors had been identified to assist in the evacuation of mountains of piled-up refuse at certain locations in the country, some of which were as old as six years.

The purpose of the meeting was to receive an update on reported cholera cases from district health officers in the Accra metropolis and the Ghana Health Service (GHS), discuss next steps for coordination and receive and discuss comments on a draft National WASH Emergency Preparedness and Response Plan (EPRP).

Contingency plan
Mr Quansah told the meeting that the government had already begun rolling out the short-term plan, which would last from August to November. This would include a mass media campaign to assist in sensitising the general public and the supply of chlorine tablets to purify contaminated water sources.

He said so far, a wireless message had been sent out to all metropolitan, municipal and district assemblies (MMDAs) to monitor and sensitise hawkers, traders and all who handled food and play the lead role in ensuring proper sanitation.

He said the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development had developed a concept for districts to guide them in their sensitisation of the public, while faith-based organisations were also being brought on board in the sensitisation effort.

According to him, a national monitoring group had also been formed, while there were plans to reproduce more leaflets on proper hygiene for dissemination in the districts.
Mr Quansah called for collaboration between environmental health officers and healthcare personnel to stem the outbreak.

Update on cholera cases
Providing the meeting with an update on the outbreak of the disease in the Ablekuma South Sub-metropolitan Area, Mr Eric Odoteye, the District Environmental Health Officer, said as of Monday, 56 suspected cases had been reported at the Mamprobi Hospital, with one death recorded, while the Korle Bu Teaching Hospital had recorded 36 cases.

To deal with the outbreak in the sub-metro, he said, his outfit had embarked on spraying public toilets with disinfectants and sensitising food vendors at market places and the public to wash their hands properly before handling food.

On the cause of the outbreak, he told the working group that many of the victims said they had contracted the disease after eating salad.

The Environmental Health Officer for the Ashiedu Keteke Sub-metropolitan Area, Rev Chris Gawugbe, also said 91 suspected cases had been reported in the sub-metro, with 11 confirmed, but there had been no death.

He said the sub-metro had also embarked on the fumigation of sanitation facilities and sensitisation of schools and food vendors.   

For the Greater Accra Region, Mr Charles Agbeko of the Health Promotion Unit of the Regional Health Directorate, said so far 314 cases had been recorded, with five confirmed dead, although the sub-metros reported 12 deaths and 1,073 suspected cases.

He gave the sub-metros as Ashiedu Keteke, 112 cases with no death; Ayawaso, 94 cases with two deaths; Okaikoi, 295 with five deaths; Osu Klottey, 258 with no death; Accra Metropolitan Assembly (AMA), 58 with two deaths; Ga South, two cases with no death; Ga West, eight cases with no death, and La Dadekotopon, 34 cases with no death.

Mr Agbeko, however, stated that as of last Friday, 1,444 suspected cases had been reported nationwide, with 19 deaths recorded.

Between last Saturday and Monday, 300 new suspected cases were reported, with one death.

Spiralling number of cases
The working group expressed worry over the increase in suspected cases and the areas affected and the lack of effective reporting on the incidence of cholera across the country.

That, the GHS representative at the meeting, Alhaji Abubakari Sufyan, attributed to delays in getting confirmation of the suspected cases from the laboratory as a result of the large numbers.

The working group maintained that while the Disease Surveillance Department of the GHS had not been forthcoming with the right figures since the disease broke, the area affected continued to expand.

Although the disease was initially confined to the Greater Accra Region, the meeting heard that the Eastern and the Ashanti regions had been affected, with four deaths at New Edubiase suspected to have been caused by cholera.

There were also unconfirmed news reports of the first suspected outbreak of cholera in the Western Region.

“There is the potential [of cholera] spreading to other parts of the country, as happened two years ago,” a WASH Specialist at UNICEF, Mr Samuel Amoako-Mensah, warned.

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This was first published by the Daily Graphic on August 6, 2014

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