International Activity Report 2012
An outbreak of cholera gradually escalated to a health emergency in Guinea-Bissau. Cholera, a communicable, water-borne disease that can cause rapid dehydration and sometimes death, is a recurring health issue in Guinea-Bissau. Outbreaks can be triggered by heavy rainfall and flooding in areas with inadequate water and waste management.
A team from Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) worked with the Ministry of Health to establish a national program on cholera preparedness in 1999. Since then, emergency teams have provided support during major cholera outbreaks in 2005 and 2008. At the end of August, the Ministry of Health began to record an increase in the number of cases of cholera. MSF started assisting an emergency response in the capital Bissau and affected areas of Biombo, Oio and Cacheu regions in October. Teams set up a 60-bed cholera treatment center in Bissau and treatment units in the other areas. MSF also supported health centers in the management of patients with cholera by opening isolation units, providing treatment and medical supplies, improving hygiene and sanitation inside facilities, training health staff and raising awareness among the population of the disease and how it is transmitted.
MSF proposed using a new, two-dose oral cholera vaccine, which had recently been used in other countries. As cholera vaccinations had never been carried out in the country before, the proposal had to pass through a complex approval system, and approval was given too late for vaccination to have an impact on the epidemic in 2012. However, the government has agreed to implement a preventive cholera vaccination campaign in 2013.
At the end of 2012 MSF had 3 staff in Guinea-Bissau. MSF has been working in the country since 1998.