By Iminza Keboge
Published September 28, 2017
While clean drinking water and advanced sanitation systems have made Europe and North America cholera-free for decades, more than 2 billion people, most of them in Africa, remain without access to safe water and sanitation.
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World Health Organisation (WHO), through an initiative called Global Task Force on Cholera Control (GTFCC), has brought together more than 50 organisations to intensify efforts and strengthen partnerships to reduce death from cholera by 90% by 2030.
GTFCC, that will be expected to issue a Declaration to Ending Cholera, focuses on:
- a multisectoral approach to control cholera in hotspots in endemic countries – with a focus on improving water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) services
- early detection and response to contain outbreaks at an early stage – including strengthened disease surveillance systems, cholera vaccination campaigns and improved case management, and
- an effective mechanism of coordination for technical support, resource mobilization and partnership at local and global level
But, as demonstrated in Kenya, cholera does not only affect the poorest and most vulnerable segment of the population; a cholera outbreak that affected 146 people attending a wedding party at an up-market Karen estate and health and scientific conference at a 5-star hotel and a further 136 attending an international trade fair in the central business district of the capital, Nairobi, in June and July 2017, respectively, caught news headlines around the world.
Pundits argued that ‘Public Health’ gets on the agenda of the Kenyan state only when its cabinet ministers and permanent secretaries get cholera.Then, after a series of denial and cover up incidents, the state remembers that Chapter 242 of its laws is the Public Health Act that must be enforced to protect the country. They attributed the non-enforcement of the public health law to lackluster impunity and Coverup that, they said, is Sending Kenyans, particularly those in townships, to an early grave.
WHO said the cholera outbreak in Kenya posed a high risk to the East African region.
“The risk of the current outbreak is assessed as high at national and regional levels,” WHO said in a statement it issued in Geneva, Switzerland. “Cholera is reported in Kenya every year but large cyclical epidemics normally come every five to seven years.”
Abbas Gullet, the Secretary-General of Kenya Red Cross said cholera had affected 30 of Kenya’s 47 administrative units known as counties and not just Nairobi that, by its economic and political significance in Kenya and East Africa, had had more publicity than the other regions.
In an effort to contain cholera that had already affected guests at Weston Hotel in Nairobi’s Lang’ata district, the Ministry of Health ordered 5-star Jacaranda Hotel and Valencia Gardens–that had offered catering services during the trade conference at the Kenyatta International Convention Centre that led to several people, among them Finance Minister Henry Rotich and Trade Minister Adan Mohammed, being admitted to hospital with symptoms of cholera–shut indefinitely.
It is hoped countries like Kenya that are experiencing an upsurge in cholera outbreak affecting both the poor and the rich, will benefit from this new global strategy to fight and defeat cholera over the next 13 short years.