Cholera outbreaks hike in African nations; 700 deaths in January

Africa. Zambia rushes to contain rapidly spreading cholera outbreak. Photo Courtesy: WHO

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Cape Town/IBNS-CMEDIA: Over 26,000 cholera infections and 700 deaths were registered in 10 African countries in January this year alone, and the risk of further spread of the disease remains high, Fiona Braka, spokeswoman for the World Health Organisation (WHO) Regional Office for Africa, said on Tuesday.

“In the first four weeks this year, 10 countries in the WHO African region have reported over 26,000 cases and 700 deaths, which is almost twice the numbers reported during the same period in 2023,” Braka told a briefing.

A number of countries are currently facing cholera outbreaks, most notably Zambia and Zimbabwe. Mozambique, Tanzania, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Ethiopia, and Nigeria are also “reporting active outbreaks.”

“There is a high risk of further spread to other countries, especially during this peak transmission season. And climate change and conflict are adding fuel to the fire; floods, cyclones, and droughts further reduce access to clean water and create an ideal environment for cholera to thrive,” the spokeswoman added.

According to the WHO, the ongoing cholera outbreak in the African region has affected 17 countries over the past two years, with the DRC, Ethiopia, Malawi, Mozambique, and Nigeria accounting for 76.4% of the 303,121 cases registered from January 2022 to January 2024.

To assess the cholera outbreak in Zambia’s Central Province, WHO Zambia is working with the Ministry of Health at the national, provincial, and district levels, and in collaboration with the Zambia National Institute for Public Health (ZNPHI), it is mapping areas for immediate support, according to a WHO report.

Ramping up response to curb Zimbabwe cholera outbreak. Photo Courtesy: WHORamping up response to curb Zimbabwe cholera outbreak. Photo Courtesy: WHO

The Central Province recorded its first cholera case in Mumbwa district on December 15, 2023.

Since then, the province has witnessed a surge in cholera cases across ten districts, with Chibombo, Kabwe, and Mumbwa being the highest case-yielding districts.

“Mapping out these areas across response pillars for support will not only address the immediate needs but also help us to implement targeted interventions that will build resilience against future outbreaks,” said Precious Kalubula, WHO Zambia National Professional Officer for Surveillance and Team Lead.

WHO and Zambia National Institute for Public Health at ground. Photo Courtesy: WHOWHO and Zambia National Institute for Public Health at ground. Photo Courtesy: WHO

As of Feb 4, Central Province recorded 1,146 cases with 36 deaths. Sixty-five percent of the deaths are community deaths.

Preliminary assessment report findings show that high population mobility, poor water and sanitation, and hygiene infrastructure worsen the outbreak in areas like Kabwe district’s Makululu, Katondo, and Nakoli compounds, as well as fishing camps in Mumbwa and Shibuyunji.

The province’s team has encountered certain difficulties in carrying out its response plan since the outbreak was declared, which has caused a delay in the execution of certain initiatives required to stop the disease’s spread within the region.