See also:
» 16.04.2010 - Child abuse also among Senegal's Muslim clergy
» 23.06.2008 - Lead intoxication causes Senegal deaths
» 02.06.2008 - Senegal leader rules out dialogue with opposition
» 08.04.2008 - MP's death shocks Senegal
» 14.03.2008 - Islam prohibits terrorism
» 14.03.2008 - Wade damns Islamophobia
» 20.03.2007 - Cholera kills one in Senegal
» 06.03.2006 - "Threat from wild birds unlikely in West Africa"

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Health | Society

Cholera at pilgrimage event in Senegal

afrol News, 30 March - A minor cholera outbreak is reported from Senegal, which nevertheless causes considerable concern. The outbreak is centred around the sacred Muslim town of Touba, where the annual pilgrimage currently is taking place. Authorities fear that many pilgrims may be infected and spread the disease over the region.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) yesterday confirmed the outbreak of a cholera epidemic in Western Senegal, centred around the town of Touba. According to the Senegalese Ministry of Health, a total of 2054 cases and 8 deaths have been confirmed in Touba, Mbacké and Bambey districts of the Diourbel region.

The bacteria Vibrio cholerae has been laboratory confirmed in 14 out of 17 samples tested, according to WHO. The UN agency now is providing technical support to the Dakar Ministry of Health, including the "intensification of surveillance, case management and health promotion activities," according to WHO.

It is however proving difficult to prevent the spread of the cholera outbreak. The annual pilgrimage - the "Magal de Touba" - is currently taking place, which may account for the high increase in cases in these districts in the past week. Senegalese Muslims are currently flocking to Touba. Here, most live in the most basic conditions with poor sanitation, which is furthering the spread of cholera.

According to reports from Touba, "more than one million" Muslims from Senegal and neighbouring countries are currently in the sacred town. The "Magal de Touba" is the region's principal pilgrimage, celebrated annually to mark the 1895 departure into exile of Sheikh Ahmadou Bamba, the spiritual founder of the Mouride Muslim brotherhood. Sheikh Bamba had gathered fame as a religious teacher and traditional healer when he was expelled by the French colonial rulers.

For many West Africans, the "Magal de Touba" is as important as the Hajj, the pilgrimage to the holy city of Mecca. It is deeper rooted in local Muslim traditions, but also more affordable to the poor majority of the region. While Touba has a growing capacity to receive this great number of pilgrims, most accommodation is very basic. Access to clean water is scarce during the event, making it an ideal condition for the cholera bacteria to spread.

According to WHO, this is also what is happening. "The outbreak appears to be extending to other regions," the UN agency reports. As a result of the heightened risk of additional cases, it was now "critical" that control measures be put in place and activities to raise awareness about the disease be disseminated throughout the community for increased prevention at the individual level, WHO said.

The Senegalese Ministry of Health has also intensified its work to assure improved hygienic conditions and clean water services to the many pilgrims in Touba. This is however proving a logistical challenge for national and local authorities, who also want to avoid panic at the Magal.

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