May 22, 2013
Cholera has broken out in northern Niger, in an area now inhabited by large numbers of Malian refugees who fled conflict in their homeland.

Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) has treated all of the nearly 250 people affected by the cholera outbreak in northern Niger that was declared by the country’s health authorities on May 11. MSF has also opened two cholera treatment centers in the regions of Mangaïzé and Ayorou, north of the capital, Niamey. Six people have died in the outbreak thus far, however.

“As soon as the first cases appeared, MSF rushed to open a cholera treatment center,” says Dr. Benoit Kayembé, MSF’s head of mission in Niger. “We currently have 100 beds in Ayorou and another 50 in Mangaïzé. As well as treating people with the disease, which mainly involves rehydrating them, our teams are leading health awareness campaigns in the affected villages. The teams are also treating water points in these communities and actively looking for further cases of cholera.”

Fear That Disease May Spread Southwards

“Some of the patients come from the camps of Malian refugees, but the majority are from local communities,” adds Kayembé.

MSF is currently the only medical organization treating people infected by cholera in the region. Its teams are worried about the proximity of the affected area to the Niger River, which flows from northern Niger towards the capital, and could well carry the disease along with it. “We can expect to see cases spreading towards Niamey,” says Kayembé. “The region already suffered from cholera last year. Having so many people displaced within the region makes it easy for cholera to spread to other parts of the country.”

MSF and its partners work in close collaboration with Niger’s Ministry of Health in the areas of child malnutrition, pediatric care, and maternal health, working in a number of health centers and hospitals in the regions of Maradi, Tahoua, Zinder, and Agadez. MSF also provides medical care to migrant populations and internally displaced people in the Agadez region. MSF also supports health authorities in responding to emergencies. 

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