Iraq's 2015 response to cholera outbreak minimizes future risk

23 March 2016, Baghdad, Iraq – After the declaration of a 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 water and sanitation and health cluster partners held a consultation today to review lessons learnt and best practices from the successful 2015 response to the outbreak. Consultations such as these will help guide cholera contingency plans for 2016 and beyond.

Cholera outbreaks occur in Iraq about every 3 to 5 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 life-saving 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 acting WHO Representative for Iraq Mr Altaf Musani. “WHO remains committed to supporting 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 in averting mortality and morbidity when cholera strikes again,” Mr Musani explained. 

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Key health-related statistics

Total population 36 004
Total health expenditure on health (% of general government expenditure) 6.0
Maternal mortality ratio (per 100 000 live births) 50
Number of primary health care units and centres (per 10 000 population) 0.7
Total life expectancy at birth (years) 70.0

Source: Country statistical profiles (2015)

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