- A continuous cholera outbreak of at least eleven months is still causing concern all over Benin. Although the mortality rate has been very low, Beninese citizens are now questioning the government's ability to respond to the outbreak.
According to the latest statistics given to the World Health Organisation (WHO) by the Beninese Ministry of Health, "a total number of 265 cases and 3 deaths" attributed to cholera have been registered in the country "from 1 January to 15 November 2003."
The outbreak is still ongoing in two départements, the coastal Atlantique and inland Borgou, according to information confirmed by the Beninese Ministry of Health. The epidemic even seemed to have gained strength the last month, as a cholera outbreak near the town of Parakou, the capital of Borgou, had infected at least 49 people since the end of September.
Health Minister Celine Seignon is facing growing critiques over her Ministry's apparent lack of control. Usually, cholera outbreaks are contained within a few months if strong action is taken by health care authorities.
The Minister has had to excuse herself by blaming the newest intensification of the cholera outbreak on the two months of heavy rain that had caused extensive flooding in central Benin. She maintains that her Ministry has taken proper action.
According to the Beninese Ministry of Health, it is now "carrying out control measures and disseminating health education messages." In Parakou, a special cholera treatment centre has now been set up to treat victims of the disease free of charge.
Cholera is a highly contagious but easily treatable water-borne disease that causes acute diarrhoea and rapid dehydration. According to the WHO, the "prompt administration of oral rehydration salts to replace lost fluids nearly always results in cure." Left untreated, however, cholera can kill quickly.
The disease frequently breaks out during man-made and natural disasters - such as civil wars and floods - when access to safe drinking water becomes scarce. In addition to human suffering caused by cholera, "cholera outbreaks cause panic, disrupt the social and economic structure and can impede development in the affected communities," the WHO warns.
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