7 September 2010 The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has begun a public awareness campaign about hygiene at primary schools across northern Cameroon in a bid to stem an outbreak of cholera that has killed hundreds of people.
The campaign, entitled My School Without Cholera, targets the estimated 1.6 million pupils attending the 3,639 primary schools in Cameroon’s three northern regions, where the cholera outbreak has been concentrated. It was launched yesterday to coincide with the first day of the new school year.
More than 4,500 cases of cholera have been confirmed since the outbreak began in May, and at least 330 people have died. Parts of Nigeria and Niger have also been affected, and UNICEF has estimated that as many as 5 million people across the region are now at risk.
The campaign involves the use of television and radio advertisements, text message alerts, posters, leaflets, stickers and school exercise books to promote messages about good hygiene and cholera prevention practices among teachers, students and parents.
Musu Clemens-Hope, UNICEF’s representative in Cameroon, said the lack of knowledge among at-risk communities was one of the reasons for the large scale of the current outbreak.
But she said the communities also face a lack of clean drinking water and latrines and have limited access to health care.
“UNICEF is calling on its partners in the Government to address the underlying problems in the communities where most of the cholera-related deaths are occurring,” Ms. Clemens-Hope said.
Along with the World Health Organization (WHO), the UN Population Fund (UNFPA), the World Food Programme (WFP) and the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), UNICEF has been working with both the Government and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to deal with the outbreak, such as by distributing medicines and oral rehydration salts.
Cholera is an acute intestinal infection picked up through contaminated food or water. It can result in diarrhoea that can lead to severe dehydration and even death without prompt treatment.
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