Worst cholera outbreak in years hits eastern, southern Africa: UN

Worst cholera outbreak in years hits eastern, southern Africa: UN

By Xinhua

UNITED NATIONS: The UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) is helping 13 countries in eastern and southern Africa battle one of the worst cholera outbreaks in years, a UN spokesman said on Tuesday.

Since the beginning of the year, UNICEF has reported more than 200,000 cases of cholera, including over 3,000 deaths in eastern and southern Africa, said Stephane Dujarric, chief spokesman for UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.

“The outbreak has placed an immense strain on health care systems and exposed vulnerabilities in sanitation and hygiene infrastructure,” Dujarric said. “UNICEF is providing life-saving supplies for prevention and treatment across the region.”

The spokesman said the agency is also working closely with government agencies and community members to promote hygiene practices, improve water and sanitation infrastructure and ensure that families have access to the information and resources needed to protect their children.

Zambia and Zimbabwe were particularly hard hit.

“Since the first reported case in Zambia in October 2023, more than 9,500 people have been affected, and 374 deaths have been registered, with a case fatality rate of 3.9 percent, a devastatingly high number,” UNICEF said in a release on Monday. “Nine out of 10 provinces are now reporting cholera cases.”

UNICEF said that about 52 percent of all cases in Zambia are children under 15. As the worst-affected district, Lusaka shares over 90 percent of the disease burden.

“In Zimbabwe, since the start of the outbreak in February last year, more than 18,000 cases have been reported across all 10 provinces, with 71 confirmed deaths and more than 300 suspected deaths,” the agency said.

“Harare and Manicaland Provinces are the most affected. One in six new cholera infections in Zimbabwe are affecting children under 5.”

UNICEF said the new school year has resumed as planned in Zimbabwe. But in Zambia, the cholera escalation has led to the postponement of the start of school till Jan. 29. Approximately 4.3 million students are affected.