November 29, 2006

MSF calls on health groups to get more involved

New York, November 29, 2006 — Following the latest outbreak of the cholera epidemic that resurfaced with the arrival of seasonal rains, the international humanitarian medical organization Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) has reopened its previous intervention in Lubango in southern Angola. Since the beginning of November, the number of patients has continued to rise—1,427 to date—and mortality remains very high.

New York — Following the latest outbreak of the cholera epidemic that resurfaced with the arrival of seasonal rains, the international humanitarian medical organization Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) has reopened its previous intervention in Lubango in southern Angola. Since the beginning of November, the number of patients has continued to rise—1,427 to date—and mortality remains very high.

After the first wave of the epidemic early in the year, cholera is hitting Angola hard once again. Faced with an increasing number of cases and the emergence of new zones of the disease, MSF decided to launch an emergency intervention for the second time this year and is calling on Angolan health officials and international organizations working in the country to act on their responsibility to fight the epidemic. According to the World Health Organization, from the beginning of the year through November 5, the number of cases in Angola totaled 58,138, with 2,382 people dead.

In Lubango, capital of Huíla Province, MSF had already cared for nearly 600 people in a cholera treatment center during the first wave of the epidemic. That wave seemed to be in check by July, and the infrastructure and remaining equipment were turned over to health officials to enable them to address future needs. With cholera currently on the rise again, MSF is urging immediate action.

"Other groups, particularly those responsible for purifying and distributing water, must take more action in Lubango," said Dr. Andrei Slavuckij, head of MSF's operations in Angola. "Right now 50 to 60 patients are arriving every day, and, if significant preventive steps aren't taken, these numbers might climb even higher. The rains have become stronger, making the work of the teams even more difficult." In addition, cases of bloody diarrhea have emerged in the last week. An epidemiological investigation is underway.

Today MSF has 17 medical and logistical staff in Lubango, in addition to a large number of national staff. A cargo plane carrying 19 metric tons of logistical equipment has already been sent with the medical equipment and medicines needed to operate the treatment center and to monitor the city's water supply in cooperation with the local administration. Another MSF team is assessing needs in other regions where the epidemic already appears to have spread. At the hospital in Ondjiva, the capital of the southern province of Cunene, 394 people have sought treatment, and the treatment capacity urgently needs to be assessed.