Wednesday, 23 March 2016 03:00

WHO, UNICEF and MOH 2015 Cholera outbreak response will minimize future risk

23 March 2016, Baghdad, Iraq: After the declaration of the cholera epidemic in Iraq in September 2015 and in anticipation of a potential new outbreak, WHO, UNICEF and the Ministry of Health of Iraq, jointly with WASH and health cluster partners held a lessons learned consultation meeting today to review lessons and best practices from the successful 2015 outbreak response. These consultations will help guide cholera contingency plans for 2016 and beyond.


Cholera outbreaks occur in Iraq about every three to five years and have a distinct seasonality that typically start in September and continue through December when cases naturally decline with a high probability of another outbreak the following spring. However, immediate and efficient response actions can reduce cases and save lives.
“The cholera outbreak response in 2015 put in place rapid lifesaving interventions that helped minimize the epidemic. We need to take stock of what was done, and use this opportunity to design a comprehensive preparedness and response plan for the next outbreak,” said WHO Acting Representative for Iraq, Mr Altaf Musani. “WHO remains committed to support the Ministry of Health and health cluster partners with effective cholera prevention and control measures including pre-positioning stockpiles of essential medicines and medical supplies and capacity for laboratory testing. These best practices will be important to avert mortality and morbidity when cholera strikes again,” Mr Musani explained.
The lessons learned consultation meeting focused on a number of key issues, including:
- Building local capacities to scale up surveillance, case investigation and management, as well as cholera prevention and control measures
- Strengthening laboratory capacities at central, governorate, and peripheral levels to ensure early detection and confirmation of the cholera
- Enhancing collaborative activities between relevant ministries and agencies, with clear roles and accountabilities
- Maintaining strong and regular communication with the health sector and applying an inter-sectorial approach for Cholera/Acute Watery Diarrhea (AWD) management.
“The Ministry of Health with the support of WHO, UNICEF, and WASH and health cluster partners is building a comprehensive cholera prevention and response program with high capacity to respond to and contain any future public health risks including a potential cholera outbreak in 2016,” said Dr Adila Hammoud Minister of Health of Iraq. “We are going to benefit from the successful collaborative efforts the ministry had with WHO and partners during the last cholera outbreak that spread to almost all Iraqi governorates,” Dr Hammoud added.
“UNICEF and partners, such as the World Health Organization and MOH, reacted immediately when cholera was confirmed in Iraq in 2015, and within 48 hours of the announcement we began our joint response. Initial activities empowered communities to protect themselves by knowing how to avoid and treat cholera, while intensive water and sanitation programmes took away the cholera transmission routes. With these joint efforts, by December 2015, even with over 10 million people from all over the world converging in Karbala, and with over 3 million people internally displaced, the outbreak was over.” Remarked Peter Hawkins, UNICEF Iraq Country Representative.
Cholera is endemic in Iraq, and the outbreak, officially declared in September 2015, resulted in 4945 cases confirmed in 17 of the 18 governorates across Iraq. WHO and UNICEF supported the Ministry of Health and other partners to put in place immediate preventive and control measures that included targeting approximately 249,319 people with Oral Cholera Vaccine (OCV) in a 2-round immunization campaign for vulnerable populations in 62 refugee and internally displaced persons (IDPs) camps and collective centres throughout the country.
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For more information please contact:
- Ms Ajyal Sultany, Communications Officer, World Health Organization Iraq,
+964 (0) 7510 101 469, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
- Jeffrey Bates, Chief of Communications, UNICEF Iraq,
+964 (0) 7801964524, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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