Cholera devastating Ethiopia-Kenya border population

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At least 14 people have died in the past seven days of cholera in the town of Moyale, along the Kenyan-Ethiopian border, health officials have said.

“Three people have died in Kenya and 11 deaths [have been] confirmed in Ethiopia,” Abdullahi Jaldesa, the Moyale district clinical officer, confirmed. The three dead in Kenya include two children. Another 13 patients have been admitted to the Moyale District Hospital.

The Ministry of Health, with technical support from the country office of the World Health Organization (WHO), confirmed the outbreak on 5 March.

“A total of 65 cases and three deaths have been reported,” WHO said in an update on 8 March. “The neighbouring country [Ethiopia] is also experiencing an outbreak of acute watery diarrhoea in the same locality, and has reported 109 cases and 16 deaths. However they have not confirmed it as cholera.”

Some 50 cases have been diagnosed in Moyale, Kenya, and 110 over the border. The death toll is expected to rise as some of the affected are in remote areas far from health facilities.

According to Liban Mohamed, Kenya Red Cross Society regional coordinator, the district hospital is facing a shortage of drugs.

The cases were first reported in Ethiopia before spreading to the village of Dabelle in Moyale, Kenya, Mohamed said. The spread has been attributed to poor sanitation and water shortages, which have led to the consumption of contaminated water.

Population movement along the common border has also fuelled the spread of the disease, which has yet to be brought under control. A shortage of personnel and prevailing drought are frustrating control efforts, he said.

Some restaurants along the Kenyan side of the border have been closed and food imports from Ethiopia banned.

Local leader Golicha Godana said there was a need for mobile health services to reach affected populations in remote parts of the region. “We are facing hunger, water shortages and now cholera. The situation is very bad,” he said.

Cholera is an acute intestinal infection caused by the bacterium Vibrio cholerae. Left untreated it can lead to severe dehydration and death.

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