An Uphill Battle: Combating Cholera Outbreak in Amhara, Ethiopia

An Uphill Battle: Combating Cholera Outbreak in Amhara, Ethiopia

The Amhara region, the second most populous region in Ethiopia, is currently grappling with a multitude of emergencies. Drought, measles, malaria, and a cholera outbreak have ravaged the area, aggravating an already dire situation. Additionally, armed conflicts have forced many people to become internally displaced, resulting in over 800,000 individuals seeking refuge in the region. These challenges have necessitated urgent action from the Amhara Public Health Institute (APHI) and the Regional Health Bureau (RHB).

The World Health Organization (WHO) has stepped in to provide crucial financial and technical support to address the pressing health issues in the region. By collaborating with APHI and RHB, the WHO has successfully implemented various interventions, including vital vaccinations and the distribution of essential medical supplies. Despite the challenging environment, an oral cholera vaccination (OCV) campaign reached an impressive 1.9 million individuals in the region.

To combat the cholera outbreak, a 5-day OCV campaign was launched on September 15, 2023. Nine highly affected hotspot districts were prioritized based on various factors such as limited vaccine doses, the presence of holy water sites, and the prevalence of internally displaced persons. The campaign targeted adults, youth, and children above the age of one, irrespective of gender or religion. With the deployment of 895 vaccination teams, the campaign aimed to vaccinate approximately 400 people per day at fixed posts. By the campaign’s conclusion, an astounding 98.76% of the targeted population had been vaccinated, protecting 1,867,926 lives from the deadly disease.

One district, Mojana Wedera, faced security issues that delayed the vaccination process. However, through negotiations between health teams and the Amhara popular force/FANO, the district ultimately initiated its OCV campaign, reaching a vaccination rate of 98.5%.

The WHO played a pivotal role in supporting the campaign by facilitating the delivery and transportation of vaccines, providing capacity building through training programs, and offering on-ground support during implementation in the districts.

In tandem with the vaccination efforts, WHO also emphasized the importance of combining cholera vaccines with surveillance, water and sanitation measures, social mobilization, and treatment in high-risk areas. To control the outbreak, WHO implemented various interventions, such as monitoring cholera cases and adverse events following immunization, providing health education on cholera prevention, and conducting surveillance and investigation activities.

The Amhara region’s cultural and religious significance further complicates the fight against cholera. Its churches and holy water sites attract numerous pilgrims seeking both spiritual and physical healing. However, due to overcrowding and poor sanitation practices in these holy water sites, cholera outbreaks have been recurring. Recognizing the need to protect pilgrims, the WHO has collaborated with religious leaders from the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, monasteries, and the APHI to improve water safety and latrine access in these locations. Engagements and mobilization efforts with religious leaders and communities have aimed to raise awareness about the burden of cholera and encourage proactive measures.

While the battle against cholera in the Amhara region remains an uphill struggle, the collaborative efforts of organizations like the WHO, APHI, and RHB provide hope for overcoming this devastating outbreak. By continuing to prioritize vaccination campaigns and implementing comprehensive preventive measures, there is potential to eliminate cholera in the region and safeguard the health and well-being of its residents.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

1. What emergencies is the Amhara region currently facing?

The Amhara region in Ethiopia is currently facing multiple emergencies, including drought, measles, malaria, and a cholera outbreak.

2. How many internally displaced people (IDPs) are there in the Amhara region?

The region counts over 800,000 IDPs, with 12% of them living in 40 collective sites.

3. Which organization is providing assistance to combat these emergencies?

The World Health Organization (WHO) is assisting the Amhara Public Health Institute (APHI) and the Regional Health Bureau (RHB) by providing financial and technical support for necessary humanitarian and public health responses.

4. What interventions did the WHO conduct in the region?

The WHO conducted successful interventions, including providing vaccination and essential kits for cholera and other diseases. They also supported the Oral Cholera Vaccination (OCV) campaign, which reached over 1.9 million individuals in the region.

5. How successful was the OCV campaign in the Amhara region?

By the end of the campaign, 98.76% of the targeted population, approximately 1,867,926 individuals, had been vaccinated against cholera, effectively protecting them from the deadly disease.

6. What measures are being taken to address the challenges posed by cultural and religious sites in the region?

The WHO has collaborated with religious leaders, such as those from the Ethiopian Orthodox Church and monasteries, to improve water safety and latrine access around holy water sites. This aims to mitigate the risk of cholera outbreaks associated with overcrowding and poor sanitation practices.

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