AFRICA—Africa has seen a surge in cholera incidence, with over 667,000 cases and more than 4,000 fatalities last year, according to UN agencies.

The  UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) reports that  eastern and southern African countries have been hit the hardest, accounting for over 75% of fatalities and one-third of cases as of January 15.

Children are the most vulnerable as outbreaks spread quickly in areas with insufficient clean water and sanitation, as well as poor case management.

 Investments in system strengthening are critical for improving access to clean water, sanitation and hygiene, social behaviour change, and case management quality, according   Etleva Kadilli, UNICEF Director for Eastern and Southern Africa.

She also emphasized the compounding effects of climate change, as well as the many ramifications for children has led to learning loss as a result of the implementation of steps such as postponing reopening  to prevent its spread.

Meanwhile, the UN World Health Organization (WHO) has revealed that preliminary statistics from Member States suggest that the number of cholera cases reported in 2023, as of December 15, exceeded that of 2022.

Based on the vast number of outbreaks and their geographic spread, as well as the scarcity of vaccines and other resources, WHO intends to classify the risk as very high at the global level.

The outbreaks have been severe in Malawi, Zambia, Mozambique and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), with 1,771 individuals dying from the disease in Malawi as of December 15, 2023.

The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) reports about 1,000 cases each week, while Zimbabwe and Mozambique see an increase in cases and the expansion of outbreaks.

The health ministry of Zambia has revealed that there have been 7,000 cases of cholera, with 273 deaths.

Minister of Health Sylvia Masebo declared in late December that steps had been increased to limit the cholera outbreak, which had extended to 12 districts across the country.

In Zimbabwe, as schools reopened, Education Minister Torerai Moyo pushed schools to promote hand washing by putting hand-washing stations around the building.

However, the Amalgamated Rural Teachers Union of Zimbabwe (ARTUZ) has attacked the government’s decision to reopen schools despite a major cholera outbreak, calling the action risky.

For the past three months, the country has been coping with a cholera outbreak, with the government launching an operation called Chenesa Harare to collect waste from the city, while the treasury is prepared to allocate funding to purchase water treatment chemicals.

In Mozambique, a wave of disinformation riots regarding the origins of cholera resulted in the murder of at least three community leaders and the damage of 50 homes in the northern province of Cabo Delgado.

Data from the Ministry of Health suggest that from October to January, the number of cholera cases stands at 8,878 with deaths at 25. 

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