At least 28 cases of cholera
were recently identified in the northern Malian village of Wabaria, just outside the city of Gao. Our Observer visited a slaughterhouse in the area where he saw waste dumped directly into the Niger River. He says the practice is an example of the deteriorating health and safety standards in the region since it was taken over by Islamist and Tuareg-led separatists more than three months ago.
A cholera treatment centre has been set up by the International Red Cross in Wabaria, in an effort to keep the outbreak from spreading to further areas, in particular Gao. Two of the 28 identified cholera victims died on Tuesday.
Cholera is caused by ingesting food or water contaminated with the bacterium Vibrio Cholorae
, and is most often linked to areas where adequate sanitation and access to clean water are scarce. An incredibly virulent disease, cholera outbreaks often occur in explosive bursts and can kill a healthy adult within hours if left untreated.
Waste discarded in Wabaria. Photos by our Observer Amar Maiga.
“People fear that cholera will spread”
Amar Maiga is a teacher in Gao. He visited Wabaria on Wednesday.
There is no running water in Wabaria. Residents get water from the Niger river when they wash or cook. But there is a slaughterhouse located five kilometres away from the village, which dumps its waste directly into the river. The region is a mess because of the recent political unrest. People do exactly as they please and the slaughterhouse personnel are no longer enforcing basic hygiene rules.
One of my friends works at the hospital in Gao, and he told me that a medical centre had been set up in Wabaria so that people wouldn’t have to travel to the city to seek treatment. People in Gao are very afraid of the cholera spreading here. The hospital has been entirely disinfected, and since yesterday the radio has been broadcasting public service announcements urging residents to go directly to the hospital or the nearest medical centre if they begin to show any symptoms.