WaterAid responds to reported fall in cholera cases

World Health Organisation data revealing a reduction in reported cases of cholera is no cause for complacency, as the burden of the disease remains unacceptably high.


6 Aug 2014

WaterAid has warned against complacency in response to annual cholera data for 2013, which shows a 47% decrease in reported cases of the disease compared to 2012.

The figures, released this month by the World Health Organisation (WHO), show 129,064 cases of cholera were reported in 2013, resulting in 2,102 deaths.

However, reporting of cases of the disease remains a major problem, with the actual burden of cholera estimated to be between 1.4 and 4.3 million cases and 28,000 to 142,000 deaths every year worldwide.

Cholera is often underreported, due to fears of a negative impact on travel and trade, and WHO analysis suggests that in Bangladesh alone, as many as 90,000 additional cases in the country may have been attributed to other diseases.

With these figures unacceptably high, WaterAid has also pointed at outbreaks in countries that have been cholera-free for over one hundred years, including Haiti and Cuba, as a warning sign to the international community.

"Crises, such as those around the 2010 Haiti earthquake, show that new outbreaks can quickly overwhelm already stretched health systems" says Yael Velleman, WaterAid’s Senior Policy Analyst on Sanitation and Health.

"While new vaccines offer additional ways of controlling outbreaks once they happen, there is no substitute for prevention, which includes access to safe water and adequate sanitation."

A global issue

An estimated 1.4 billion people – one in five globally – are at risk of cholera. Lack of access to adequate sanitation, and the subsequent contamination of food, water and the living environment, is the main transmission route.

The WHO's figures also show:

  • All regions are affected, with cases reported in 22 countries in Africa, 14 in Asia, eight in the Americas, two in Europe (both imported cases) and one in Oceania
  • Countries in Africa reported a total of 56,329 cases (43.6% of the global total), including 1,367 deaths (65% of global cholera deaths)
  • Four countries – Angola, Democratic Republic of Congo, Nigeria and Somalia – accounted for over 83% of the cases reported on the continent.

Find out more about WaterAid's work on sanitation >