Sanitation Thousands infected in Tanzania cholera outbreak

At least 222 are dead, while reported cases have risen to 14,303 since August as government battles to contain disease.

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Tanzania is struggling to contain a deadly outbreak of cholera that has claimed at least 222 lives since August, the United Nations has said.

In a statement released to Al Jazeera on Thursday, the World Health Organisation and UNICEF, the United Nation's children's fund, said that the outbreak was straining local capacities and resources, and posed "a high risk to lives and the economy".

According to the UN, the number of reported cases of cholera has climbed to 14,303 across 27 districts in the country since the outbreak began last August. 

Cholera is a deadly diarrhoeal disease that can kill within hours if left untreated. Results from water quality surveys show that the source for the outbreak is contaminated water, usually borne out of poor hygienic practices and lack of sanitation facilities.

'Rapid intervention'

Authorities say the first case was reported in Dar es Salaam’s Kinondoni district in August 2015 before spreading throughout the Dar es Salaam region, including Zanzibar.

Reliefweb reported that a surge in cases in November suggested that without a "significant and rapid intervention" there is a very real possibility that up to 40,000 people could be at risk.  

The Tanzanian government says it believes it is well on the way towards successfully managing the scourge. 

Rapid response teams had been deployed to the most affected areas to assist the work of the regional and district health authorities, Dr Janneth Mghamba, the assistant director of the epidemiology and disease control section at the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare, told Al Jazeera.

She said that the numbers showed that rate of infection had slowed. 

Responding to criticism that the government was late to react to the outbreak, Mghamba said her government was working on the issue as a matter of priority.

Improving sanitation 

"This government is well aware that the first issue to address is that of safe water, followed by improved sanitation.

"There was a period when there was no cholera in Tanzania [...] water and sanitation coverage in the country have climbed and now it is a case of implementation," Mgamba said.

Earlier in January, Tanzania was one of 11 countries that received a cholera vaccine from WHO, but authorities said a shortage of the injection means that it would not be accessible to all Tanzanians. 

In mid-2015, the WHO had organised about 164 500 doses of the oral cholera vaccine to help avert an epidemic in Kigoma, specifically the Nyarugusu refugee camp, where tens of thousands of Burundian refugees sought refuge after fleeing the political crisis in their neighbouring country.

Source: aljazeera.com

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