By Kwasi Kpodo
ACCRA (Reuters) - Cholera has killed at least 67 people in Ghana since June and infected more than 5,000 others in an outbreak that highlights the health and sanitation challenges facing one of Africa's fastest-growing economies.
The Ghana Health Service (GHS) said the outbreak was centered on impoverished communities in urban areas in the south that lack adequate toilets, though there were also a few cases in rural parts of the north of the West African state.
Some 54 people have died in or near the capital Accra, and around 300 people are now being infected daily with the highly contagious disease, putting pressure on local health facilities, said Linda Van-Otoo, GHS director for Greater Accra.
"It is not only a health issue, there is a big element of environmental sanitation," she said, adding that local authorities were attempting to tackle the root causes of the disease as well as treat the influx of patients.
Ghana is politically stable but is facing an array of fiscal problems, even though it has sustained economic growth of 8 percent for five years on the back of its exports of gold, cocoa and oil, making it one of Africa's brightest economies.
President John Mahama's government prides itself on its progress toward meeting United Nations goals for poverty reduction but many people still face a chronic lack of infrastructure and basic services.
Cholera is an acute diarrheal illness caused by a bacteria that can cause rapid dehydration and death. Its victims are frequently infected through the ingestion of water and food contaminated by human faeces.
Ghana has recorded no cases of the Ebola virus that since March has killed more than 1,400 people in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia as well as around five people in Nigeria.
(Editing by Matthew Mpoke Bigg and Susan Fenton)