Cholera is a bacterial disease, usually spread through contaminated water, that causes severe diarrhoea and dehydration. It can kill, and thrives in poor or overcrowded conditions where access to safe water, sanitation and hygiene are compromised.
Cholera is a global threat, risking the health of one billion people worldwide. It can dehydrate and kill within hours. Since January 2022, thirty countries have reported cholera outbreaks, including places that had been cholera-free for decades.
Cholera is on the rise again because overlapping humanitarian crises around the world—such as migration, conflicts, poverty, and social injustice—are forcing people to live in unsanitary conditions, in which the disease thrives.
But every case and death from cholera is preventable with the tools we have today.
The vast majority of cholera cases can be treated with a simple oral rehydration method, if administered quickly. This can be very challenging when access to health care services is poor or delayed, and where life-saving information on first aid at home is unavailable.
An oral cholera vaccine (OCV) is also available to help prevent or respond to cholera outbreaks. However it is not a solution on its own, and global supplies are currently strained.
More than ever, greater investments are needed to improve access to water, sanitation and hygiene services—which are the only long-term solutions to prevent cholera and many other water-related diseases.
The IFRC, together with many of our National Societies, is running sustainable long-term water, sanitation, and hygiene programmes in cholera endemic countries as part of our One WASH initiative. Our aim is to reduce cholera deaths by 90% by 2030.
We make sure that communities are well prepared for an early response to outbreaks. We conduct prevention activities such as water treatment, hygiene and health promotion. And we build and repair water points and sanitation facilities.
When outbreaks hit, our staff and volunteers set up oral rehydration points, treat people at the community level and refer the most severe cases to hospitals. National Societies, with the IFRC’s support, track transmission routes and ensure that people most at risk have access to safe water supplies, sanitation and hygiene services.
Country Support Platform
The IFRC is part of the Global Task Force on Cholera Control (GTFCC)—a partnership of more than 50 institutions working to support countries in implementing the global cholera prevention strategy, Ending Cholera: A Global Roadmap to 2030.
The IFRC hosts the operational arm of this partnership, the Country Support Platform (CSP). The CSP provides cholera affected countries—currently Bangladesh, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Nigeria, Mozambique and Zambia—with technical assistance to develop National Cholera Plans, advocacy and resource mobilization support, and capacity building to help them end cholera.
The CSP is funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation, and the Wellcome Trust.