Guinea Bissau

In the run-up to the November 16 legislative elections in Guinea-Bissau, the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a joint programme of the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), publishes today a mission report entitled Guinea-Bissau: A Detrimental Environment to the Work of Human Rights Defenders.

A cholera epidemic is spreading quickly in Guinea-Bissau, where campaigning for an upcoming election could put even more people at risk, United Nations agencies said on Friday. Some 12,225 people in the West African state have caught cholera so far this year and 201 have died, raising fears among aid workers that the water-borne disease could resurge on the devastating scale seen in 2005.

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has expressed concern over the volatile security and political atmosphere in Guinea-Bissau, where crucial elections are slated to take place next month, in his latest report to the Security Council on the West African country. Mr. Ban said that the period covered by the new report, from mid-July to September, was characterized by “deepening political malaise and the spectres of military tension and pressure.”

The United Nations World Health Organization (WHO) and the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) continue to help authorities in Guinea-Bissau combat an outbreak of cholera that has claimed at least 133 lives since May and forced thousands of others to be hospitalized. WHO has sent an epidemiologist and UNICEF has deployed water and sanitation experts to assist in the response to the cholera epidemic, which can be a frequent occurrence in the poor West African nation.

Cholera has killed 122 people and new cases have been reported in the last three weeks alone in Guinea Bissau. The epidemic is uncontrollable in the capital Bissau and elsewhere, experts told IRIN. The hardest hit regions are Bijao Island 158 cases, Biombo 836, Quinara 216, Oio 215 and Bissau 4,500.