Health officials from around the world are meeting in France to commit to preventing 90% of cholera deaths by 2030. The disease, which is spread through contaminated water, kills about 100,000 people every year. It is the first time governments, the World Health Organization, aid agencies and donors have made such a pledge. It comes as Yemen continues to fight one of the worst cholera outbreaks on record.
Cholera has been spreading in the war-torn country due to deteriorating hygiene and sanitation conditions and disruptions to the water supply.More than 770,000 people have been infected with the disease, which is easily treatable with the right medical equipment, and 2,000 have died. Many of the victims are children. These huge outbreaks tend to grab the headlines, but there are also frequent outbreaks in so-called cholera “hotspots”. Cholera is an acute diarrhoeal infection caused by ingestion of food or water contaminated with the bacterium Vibrio cholera. It can spread quickly and widely in cramped, dirty conditions. The infection is cheap to treat with rehydration salts, and easy to avoid altogether if people have access to clean water and decent toilet facilities. But about two billion people globally lack access to clean water and are potentially at risk of cholera, according to the World Health Organization. The UN health agency says weak health systems, and outbreaks not being detected early enough also contribute to the rapid spread of outbreaks. Dr Dominique Legros, who heads up the WHO’s cholera programme, told the BBC: “We can’t keep seeing these huge outbreaks every year.