Amref Health Africa can today confirm that the cholera outbreak in Mandera County has already claimed 10 lives and at least 721 people are suspected to have been infected since the first case was reported on April 13. To contain the situation and help put a stop to the spread of the epidemic, we have launched an emergency appeal for Ksh25 million (US$250,000).
The situation on the ground is dire. Cholera patients are currently being housed in a maternity shelter that was built by Amref Health Africa through the USAID-funded APHIAplus IMARISHA Project at the County Referral Hospital. The shelter has a capacity of 50 but is already crowded with 58 patients currently. Many more patients are being treated outside, with beds placed around the compound of the hospital and drips hanging from trees.
Besides, the hospital lacks standard cholera beds and these have had to be improvised.
We have established that the outbreak is mainly within Mandera town, with the original case suspected to be a man who had travelled by bus from Wajir or Nairobi.
The sanitation situation in Mandera is critical, with erratic water supply and inadequate sanitation facilities. The town has no reliable water supply and currently relies on water tankers and donkey cart transporters.
It is feared that if the infections cross over to neighbouring Bulahawa, in Somalia, the situation could turn catastrophic as the health system in that country is barely functional.
The biggest challenge now is inadequate control and management of the outbreak. Health workers are not properly skilled in proper cholera case management, which could escalate the situation.
Amref Health Africa is currently collaborating with the Mandera County Government and other partners to help manage the situation.
In particular, there is urgent need for interventions at community level, including hygiene promotion in schools and households. The County Ministry of Health has mobilised supply of water to schools, markets and other public places, but there are no water storage tanks in many of these places.
There is also an urgent need to train community health workers (C to go out into the town and surrounding villages to create awareness and to track and refer suspected cases to hospital. In addition, they will distribute water treatment products at household level.
An Amref Flying Doctors plane will tomorrow fly a team and an initial consignment of supplies to Mandera to boost the capacity of the Mandera County Hospital, including laboratory expertise and materials. Samples have so far had to be sent to Kemri for confirmation.
An ongoing outbreak of Chikungunya, a fever caused by mosquito bites, is exacerbating the cholera outbreak and affecting provision of health services in the county as some of the health workers have also been infected.
The US$250,000 will meet the cost of health promotion, purchase of supplies for prevention and treatment such as water purification tablets and medicines, as well as laboratory supplies and personnel. We appeal to our partners and supporters to help us in this effort to end the suffering of the Mandera people from the ravages of cholera.
Dr Githinji Gitahi,
Group Chief Executive Officer,
Amref Health Africa