In one of the region's most severe epidemics in recent memory, three simultaneous outbreaks of cholera have sickened tens of thousands of people in Central and West Africa. Officials with the World Health Organization, or WHO, estimate there have been more than 85,000 cases of the disease and 2,466 fatalities since the beginning of the year in Africa. Affected are two dozen countries along the continent's west coast from Guinea and in the Lake Chad and West Congo basins down to Lake Tanganyika.
The United States, working closely with local African authorities, the WHO and other international partners, is helping address the crisis by buying and distributing medical supplies to health facilities and cholera treatment centers. To deal with future outbreaks, our country is helping develop swift response capabilities that will allow the WHO to intervene in medical emergencies immediately. By quickly drawing attention to the severity of the problem, the U.S. has paved the way for other nations to provide medical supplies and funding too.
The ability to respond to future outbreaks is critical to containing the disease which is now endemic to West and Central Africa and has also infected over 470,000 people in Haiti since October 2010. Limited access to clean water and sanitation there allows for easy transmission, and recent greater movement of people across the region is believed to have contributed to the crisis by spreading the bacteria that causes the disease.
We continue to coordinate closely with West and Central African governments and the international community to ensure that affected individuals' needs are met.