WHO Announces Rollout of Cholera Tests as Cases Surge

An unprecedented global deployment of cholera rapid diagnostic tests has been launched to combat the increasing infections, stated the World Health Organisation and its partners on Friday.

Malawi has received the first shipment of tests, marking the beginning of a worldwide diagnostics program aimed at enhancing the detection of outbreaks.

Over 1.2 million tests will be distributed to 14 high-risk countries in the coming months, as mentioned in a statement by the UN health agency.

According to the statement, countries severely affected by cholera outbreaks, such as Ethiopia, Somalia, Syria, and Zambia, will receive kits in this largest-ever global deployment in the upcoming weeks.

The program is a collaborative effort, with funding and coordination managed by the Gavi vaccine alliance and procurement overseen by the UN children’s agency UNICEF.

Both WHO and the Global Task Force on Cholera Control are providing their support for the initiative.

The aim of the program is to assist countries in accelerating and enhancing the accuracy of cholera outbreak detection and response by strengthening routine surveillance and testing capabilities, as highlighted by the organizations.

Gavi’s chief program officer Aurelia Nguyen emphasized the critical impact of today’s announcement in the fight against the disease amid a significant increase in cholera cases worldwide.

Cholera, caused by a bacterium typically transmitted through contaminated food or water, results in diarrhea and vomiting and poses a significant risk to young children.

Global cholera cases reported to WHO in 2022 reached 473,000, doubling from the previous year, with preliminary data suggesting over 700,000 cases reported the following year.

The surge in outbreaks has led to a surge in vaccine demand from affected countries, creating a global shortage despite an eighteen-fold increase in the global supply of oral cholera vaccines between 2013 and 2023, as indicated in Friday’s statement.

Last month, WHO called for urgent measures to address the shortage, citing unprecedented strain on the global vaccine stockpile.

As a result, preventive vaccination campaigns have been delayed to prioritize doses for emergency responses to outbreaks.

Simultaneously, the occurrence of repeated outbreaks in countries where emergency vaccination drives have already been conducted underscores the urgent need for swift and accurate identification of areas with ongoing or emerging transmission, according to the statement.

“Surveillance diagnostics play a crucial role in pinpointing specific hotspots, enabling partners to strategically allocate cholera vaccines where they can save the most lives,” stated Leila Pakkala, head of UNICEF’s supply division.

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Comfort Samuel

I work with TV360 Nigeria, as a broadcast journalist, producer and reporter. I'm so passionate on what I do.

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