31 July 2012

Sierra Leone: As Cholera Takes Over Freetown...

Photo: Manoocher Deghati/IRIN
Mothers in a waiting room at a clinic near Freetown.

As more cases of Cholera infection were reported within Freetown, attention has been shifted to Susan's Bay in the east of the city where many people claimed needs sanitization to rid the city of the epidemic.

Renowned for its lack of potable water, health care facilities and poor education structure, and most of the wastes from central Freetown reportedly emptied at the community, Susan's Bay is seriously faced with several problems of sanitation yet the area plays an important role to the development of Freetown as it serves as the point at which most of the foodstuffs from river line communities brought in by boats from other parts of the country are offloaded.

Very close to Susan's Bay community is the big market where foodstuffs are being sold and market women from all over the city converge on the Dove Cote market to buy foodstuffs every morning.

Though youth in the community have constructed a public toilet and a water source for residents of the community to get their drinking water, the toilet is emptied in the river where many of their children take their bath.

"Our authorities are not serious in addressing Cholera because since the outbreak, nobody has visited this community to sensitize us about the preventive methods. We are only being protected by God," says Mohamed Conteh, chairman of Susan's Bay community where the people share meals with pigs told Concord Times.

"I think that we need to set up a program to build proper sanitary toilets with running water and flushing toilets. We also need to introduce a hygiene program in schools so as to teach our children to wash their hands," Conteh added.

Now that the cholera infection is said to be gradually resulting into a pandemic situation, reports from various communities where Cholera has been diagnosed recently proved that much efforts have not been made by health service providers including the ministry of health and sanitation to address the outbreak.

At the main referral Connaught Hospital yesterday, several Cholera patients have been admitted in the last few days and the medical officer in charge of the Cholera ward who preferred not to be identified said "We are getting patients from all over the city. It is no longer restricted to slum communities," she noted.

An imported chicken seller, Mustapha Kamara, said that there are reports that imported chicken products in the market have been contaminated, a claim that has been denied by one of the importers PEE C and Sons.

"The government should redirect its focus on importers of chicken products," he said. "We have made a move to the importers but it is very difficult for us to convince them to keep their products safe because they blame us, the sellers."

According to health experts, Cholera is presumptively diagnosed by patients' history and examination of stool for rice-water appearance and definitive diagnosis is done by isolation and identification of the disease from stool samples usually with immunologic tests.

Nobody is said to be immune to fatal disease that is mostly transmitted by water sources contaminated with the causative bacterium Vibrio cholera. Contaminated foods may also transmit the disease. Poor water and sanitation systems give rise to the disease, an acute intestinal infection caused by ingesting contaminated food and water. It can kill in hours, according to health experts.

Director of Disease Prevention and Control at the Ministry of Health and Sanitation, Dr. Amara Jambai, past Thursday disclosed that the outbreak of cholera in Port Loko, Kambia, Pujehun and Kailahun districts and the Western Area has claimed 62 lives so far.

It has also been reported that the Sierra Leone Red Cross has mobilized 400 volunteers to control the spread of the disease and educate communities on how to prevent themselves from Cholera.

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