An Alliance of Organizations Works to Eliminate Cholera in the Democratic Republic of Congo and Beyond
Cholera is a waterborne, infectious disease whose life cycle characteristics and patterns of human infection have long been known.
Since more than a decade, the disease is re-emerging due to fast urbanization in developing countries and global warming (Reference: Cholera and Climate change : a demonstrated relationship, Constantin de Magny G., Colwell R., 2009).
Traditional efforts to fight against cholera have been based upon short term emergency responses offered through curative medical procedures in Cholera Treatment Centers. In other words, the traditional focus has been on treatment of the disease.
To develop a longer term response, Congolese and French epidemiologists and engineers have approached cholera from a different perspective: they have gradually shifted their methodology from treatment to prevention in the Democratic Republic of Congo – the D.R.C. stands among the countries most affected by cholera on a worldwide scale (Source: World Health Organization). The approach combines epidemiology, water, sanitation, and hygiene, with an emphasis on careful observation. Through epidemiological surveillance, they have been able to emphasize several “cholera hot spots” in the Democratic Republic of Congo, in order to target preventive actions such providing safe access to potable water and adequate sanitation and focused health education. This emphasis allows them to begin the removal of water-borne disease vectors; without doing this the cycle of epidemics will continue. Through this method they hope to eliminate the increasing number of cholera outbreaks in a sustainable manner.
There is universal agreement within the relevant scientific and health care community that the most important factors in the sustainable elimination of cholera are direct access to potable water, effective community sanitation procedures, and implementation of personal hygiene practices by “high risk” communities.
To advocate for this sustainable and replicable approach to eliminate cholera, the Global Alliance Against Cholera (GAAC) was established in 2010, comprised of senior representatives of public, private and international organizations (e.g.: Rita Colwell, Maryland University; Eric Mintz, Centers for Disease Control, etc.), and chaired by Ibrahim Mayaki, C.E.O. of NEPAD. All share a background in health, water and sanitation programs across the globe. The organization is actively supported by the Veolia Environnement Foundation, and welcomes other agencies who are interested in providing support focused on improving water, sanitation and hygiene to prevent cholera and other water borne diseases. GAAC’s hope is to mobilize interest and orientate funds towards operational actions run in the field.
As an example, is the recent affiliation of Jean-Michel Herrewyn, Director of Veolia Water and member of the Board of Directors of Veolia Foundation, to the Regional Coalition for Water and Sanitation to eliminate Cholera in the island of Hispaniola. The Coalition is led by the Pan-American Health Organization and the Haitian and Dominican governments. Other partners such as UNICEF, the World Bank, Inter-American Development Bank, Centers for Disease Control, etc. have also joined the initiative to advice and support the governments of Haiti and Dominican Republic in their strategy to eliminate cholera by 2022. The Veolia Environnement Foundation has been named as an official member of the Technical Advisory Group.