On 5 October 2022, the first cholera case in nearly three decades was confirmed in Lebanon. Since then, over 1400 suspected cases, including 17 deaths, have been reported across the country, according to the World Health Organization.
Cholera is a serious bacterial disease spread through contaminated water. It can cause diarrhea, vomiting, and dehydration. Without treatment, even healthy people can die within hours.
“Cholera is deadly, but it’s also preventable through vaccines and access to safe water and sanitation,” said Dr. Abdinasir Abubakar, WHO representative in Lebanon. “It can be easily treated with timely oral rehydration or antibiotics for more severe cases. The situation in Lebanon is fragile as the country already struggles to fight other crises – compounded by prolonged political and economic deterioration.” 1
Given the current situation, UNIFIL’s Polish Contingent decided to take the initiative and, utilizing their medical team’s knowledge and expertise, organized cholera awareness classes in the Mission’s area of operations.
When the Polish Contingent’s Civil-Military Coordination (CIMIC) team contacted local authorities to see if they were interested in such preventative awareness classes, the response was overwhelmingly positive. So, the CIMIC and Medical Teams prepared the necessary educational materials such as leaflets, video presentations and practical activities for children and set out to visit schools.
The focus was on primary schools to make students aware of the risks and precautions they can take, with separate sessions for local women, since they are principally responsible for managing the household, preparing food, and looking after the general household hygiene, all of which can be implicated in the spread of cholera.
Women and children were shown informative videos and briefed on the importance of clean water and sanitation to prevent the transmission of this waterborne disease. Preventative measures include boiling water or using chlorine tablets, properly washing fruits and vegetables, washing hands frequently, and avoiding reuse of plates and utensils. They also learned how to recognize the symptoms of cholera. The students were given leaflets provided by the Ministry of Health to take home to their parents so that the critical information would reach the whole family.
So far, Polish peacekeepers have reached more than 700 pupils from primary schools and about 200 women in UNIFIL’S area of responsibility. The cholera awareness classes are planned to continue until the beginning of December.