Kenya on high cholera alert

June 16, 2009 12:00 am

, NAIROBI, Kenya, Jun 16 – Kenya has placed its public health officers on high alert following a cholera outbreak in the upper eastern region of the country which has so far claimed 30 lives in the last one month.

Public Health and Sanitation Minister Beth Mugo said on Tuesday that officials had been ordered to strictly inspect all eateries and ensure high standards of hygiene.

“Public health officers are under strict instructions not to allow street vendors (sell food) unless they see the source of that food that it is really clean,” the Public Health minister stated.

The highest number of deaths was recorded in Laisamis District claiming 13 people. Four others, among them two pupils and a woman, have died in a village in Isiolo District.

In Nairobi, two people died following an outbreak in Gatwekera, a village in the sprawling Kibera slums.

More than 10 people have also died of Cholera in Marsabit District, which borders Isiolo, while last month one person died at the Archers’ Post area of Samburu East District.

Mrs Mugo has consequently urged Kenyans to observe strict hygienic conditions to protect themselves against Cholera, and stressed that putting emphasis on hygiene at all times will go a long way in enhancing the livelihoods of Kenyans.

“We are asking the people to practice good hygiene. Make sure you eat well cooked food,” Mrs Mugo said.

Child Development

Mrs Mugo was speaking during the launch of a book titled ‘A Child Survival and Development Strategy 2008 – 2015’ seeking to uphold the rights of children to life, survival and development.

The Public Health Minister said that other than raising awareness on maternal and child development, the strategy will further reduce the mortality rate among infants.

She urged families to take advantage of health services available in order to increase their children’s chances of survival.

“Other initiatives that will enhance child survival include encouraging all pregnant women with the support from their spouses and communities to attend the antenatal clinics at least four times,” she said.

While lauding the budgetary allocation by her Finance counterpart to the health sector, the Public Health Minister appealed for more funds to effect necessary reforms.

“Though the ministry appreciates the increase in funding, we will have a huge gap particularly for purchase and storage of vaccines as we prepare to introduce new ones,” Mrs Mugo said.

Meanwhile, an International non governmental organisation has termed the current cholera outbreak in the country as retrogressive and unacceptable.

In an interview with Capital News, Action Aid National health Coordinator, Ruth Laibon- Masha said there should never be a cholera outbreak in the country because the causes and the hotspots are known.

“For example, it is expected after every rainy season there is likely to be a cholera outbreak. It is more to do with our environmental practices and because we know this, it is the high time the Ministries of Public Health and Environment come together with a programme that anticipates such situations,” Mrs Masha said.

In the last six months, the cholera outbreak has cumulatively affected 27 districts in Kenya and caused 76 deaths.

“So for us to be saying ten people have died of cholera today, twenty people the other day, it’s unforgivable,” said the Action aid official.

Director of Public Health Dr Shahnaaz Shariff told Capital News that in the last one month, over 1,400 cases had been reported with 28 deaths.

He said Moyale, Laisamis, Kajiado, Mombasa and Suba districts were still reporting new cases mainly due to lack of clean water.

“Let’s be realistic about the situation. With the environmental change, with this prolonged drought I do not foresee that outbreaks of diarrhoeal diseases will subside in this country,” Dr Shariff said.

“That was even pointed out about two years ago when the World Health Organisation launched the annual report on global climate change and health,” he added.

He said the Ministry of Public health was working with that of water to ensure provision of clean drinking water to the affected areas because dirty water was the main cause of the outbreak.

Laisamis district in Eastern Province which is the hardest hit has reported 237 cases in the last one week alone and 14 people are admitted in various hospitals.

Between mid May and mid June, the area had reported 781 cases with 13 deaths.

The deaths, Dr Shariff said, were as a result of delay in seeking treatment.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), cholera is an acute intestinal infection caused by ingestion of food or water contaminated with a bacterium known as ‘Vibrio Cholerae’.

It has a short incubation period of less than one day to five days after which it causes profuse painless, watery diarrhoea that can quickly lead to severe dehydration and death if treatment is not promptly given.

Vomiting also occurs in most patients.

The WHO recommends the use of oral rehydration salts which can also be homemade using half a teaspoon of salt and six level teaspoons of sugar dissolved in one litre of safe water, to reduce deaths from cholera.

In its website, the International health body says lightly salted rice water or plain water can also be given to a cholera patient before seeking medical attention.

This could avert up to 80 percent of deaths from cholera.


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