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UNHCR concerned over cholera outbreak at Minawao, calls for urgent support

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UNHCR concerned over cholera outbreak at Minawao, calls for urgent support

20 October 2022
Cameroon. Reforestation project turns refugee camp green again
The arrival of nearly 70,000 Nigerian refugees in Minawao refugee camp in Cameroon has put huge pressure on a region where natural resources are scarce and desertification is already under way. The "Make Minawao green again" project aims to reverse deforestation in the camp and surrounding villages.

UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, is concerned over a cholera outbreak in the Minawao refugee camp in Cameroon's Far North Region. Three people have died, and 39 cases have been identified in the camp.

“UNHCR is deeply saddened by the death of three refugees following the outbreak of cholera at Minawao and I present my heartfelt condolences to the bereaved families,” said Olivier Beer, the UNHCR Representative in Cameroon. UNHCR is working with Cameroon's Government, UN agencies and other partners to ensure urgent care for those who have fallen ill and to break the chain of transmission.

Cholera is transmitted through ingesting contaminated water and food. To help contain the outbreak, UNHCR and health actors are training community relays on identifying and reporting suspected cases, close monitoring of contact cases, as well as disinfecting the homes of suspected cases and public spaces in the camp. Efforts are also underway to urgently ramp up existing awareness campaigns about cholera and good hygiene practices in the camp.

However, efforts to rapidly improve water, hygiene, and sanitation at Minawao are impeded by the lack of resources. The potable water sources and sanitation infrastructure have become insufficient for the camp's growing population which has nearly doubled from 40,000 in 2015, to its current 75,000.

A first cholera alert was issued by UNHCR’s partner for health in Minawao, the International Medical Corps, IMC, after a rapid diagnostic test on samples collected from a patient at the Integrated Health Centre came back positive on 15 October.

As of 18 October, 24 out of 39 patients were receiving treatment at health facilities in Minawao. According to medical staff handling the cases, the patients are in serious but stable condition. Twelve people have recovered and returned home.

Fresh funds are urgently needed to cover existing gaps in water, hygiene, and sanitation, and reduce the risk of future outbreaks. The UNHCR operation in Cameroon is critically underfunded, with only 28 percent of financial requirements for 2022 covered. In Minawao, UNHCR needs US$ 250,000 to increase potable water production and supply from boreholes and pumping systems from nearby rivers. Another US$ 200,000 is required to cover an existing gap of 900 latrines and improve waste management in the camp. All these needs are extremely urgent.

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