Sierra Leone's health ministry said Thursday that deaths from a cholera outbreak had reached 220, affecting over 12,000 people in the west African nation, which is struggling to curb the disease.
"Some 12,140 people are affected nationwide in 10 of 12 districts," the health ministry's director of disease prevention and control, Amara Jambai, told journalists, saying the figure included cases recorded up to Wednesday.
This is two more districts than were reported last week when the death toll stood at 176, prompting President Ernest Koroma to declare the outbreak a "public health emergency".
"The outbreak has peaked mainly in slum areas in the capital due to poor sanitation including areas without latrines or people drinking contaminated water," Jambai said.
International health organisations are grappling to stem the spread of the outbreak which has also hit neighbouring Guinea.
Jambai said the outbreak had "opened up a window of opportunity whereby our partners are providing resources in a faster and more coherent manner."
He said cholera cases were expected to rise in September as the country's annual rainy season reaches its peak.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO) representative in Freetown, Wondimagenehu Alemu: "Everywhere is at risk but everything is being done combat the spread."
Amanda McClelland of the International Federation of Red Cross last week said the outbreak had the potential to be "devastating" and was proving difficult to control.
The water-borne disease has also hit Mali and Niger, as well as Sierra Leone's northern neighbour Guinea, killing 82 people in that country since February.
Poor water and sanitation systems give rise to the disease, an acute intestinal infection caused by ingesting contaminated food and water which causes acute diarrhoea and vomiting and can kill in hours, according to the WHO.© ANP/AFP