Curated Health Communication Materials to Treat, Prevent Cholera

On June 24, 2017,  UNICEF and the World Health Organization released a statement that the cholera outbreak in Yemen, which began in October of 2016, was “the worst cholera outbreak in the world.”

Credit: A young girl in Kolkata, India, stands by her family's cholera-contaminated water supply.

Credit: A young girl in Kolkata, India, stands by her family’s cholera-contaminated water supply. © 2009 Chelsea Solmo, Courtesy of Photoshare

The outbreak has now exceeded 200,000 suspected cases, increasing at an average of 5,000 a day. In just a few months, cholera has spread to almost every governorate in Yemen. Since the outbreak began, more than 1,300 people have died – one quarter of them children – and the death toll is expected to rise.

Cholera is an acute diarrhoeal infection caused by ingestion of food or water contaminated with the bacterium Vibrio cholerae. Cholera remains a global threat to public health and an indicator of inequity and lack of social development. Researchers have estimated that every year there are roughly 1.3 to 4.0 million cases, and 21,000 to 143,000 deaths worldwide due to cholera.

Cholera is an easily treatable disease. In most cases, those infected will have no symptoms or mild symptoms and can be successfully treated with oral rehydration solution. Severe cases, however, will need rapid treatment with intravenous fluids and antibiotics. Provision of safe water and sanitation is critical to control the transmission of cholera and other waterborne diseases.  

Social and behavior change communication (SBCC) campaigns are implemented to promote the adoption of appropriate hygiene practices such as hand-washing with soap, safe preparation and storage of food and safe disposal of the feces of children. Funeral practices for individuals who die from cholera must be adapted to prevent infection among attendees.  

During outbreaks, campaigns can be organized and information should be provided to the community about the potential risks and symptoms of cholera, precautions to avoid cholera, when and where to report cases and to seek immediate treatment when symptoms appear. The location of appropriate treatment sites should also be shared.

In light of this emerging health crisis, the Health COMpass provides a Trending Topic which provides tools for health communication as well as samples of SBCC materials from projects worldwide.

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