OPINION

Eradicating cholera is striking blow for the child

In March, new cases of cholera were reported in Kihoto estate in Naivasha. This matter cannot be relegated to the back seat.  Left untreated, people with cholera suffer severe dehydration, leading to serious health problems such as seizures and kidney failure and eventually death.

In 2014, 190, 549 cholera cases were reported to WHO, with 55 per cent of the cases in Africa and 30 per cent in Asia.

As we celebrate the Day of the African Child, it is worth noting that children are particularly prone to cholera either as victims or consequent vulnerability as orphans. Efforts aimed at eradicating the disease should, therefore, take this into account. Given that we are in the 21st century, one would think the process of eradication should be straightforward.

Since early 1970s, outbreaks have been reported in Kenya, with the two largest epidemics in 1997 when more than 33,000 reported cases, while 11, 769 cases were reported in 2009.

Understanding cholera is paramount to fighting it. Poverty levels, ignorance, certain cultural practices, serve as contributors of cholera outbreaks. Bacteria causing cholera, is present in stool or faeces, that may seep into and contaminate waterways, soil or sources of drinking water. Drinking infected water or using it to wash food or utensils can lead to infection.

For most part, outbreaks of cholera are related to poor access to drinking water and poor sanitation. According to Disaster Relief Emergency Fund Operation Report (2009), many factors, are directly linked to high poverty levels, ignorance of prevention measures, lack of latrines in rural places and counter-productive cultural practices.

Proper sanitation systems such as flush toilets, sewer systems, and water treatment facilities keep faeces out of water and food supply. It is especially important to be wary of disasters that occur during floods. With proper planning systems, every home in Kenya can have good toilet facilities.

From 2000 to 2006, cases were reported each year ranging from 1,157 to 816 except for 2002, with 291 cases. What did Kenya do differently in that year? Documents indicate a multi-sectorial approach was well-co-ordinated through sector to health programmes.

Surveillance, to detect outbreaks and save lives is commendable.  However, setting up infrastructure to curb cholera for long haul, is even greater.

—The author is a Senior Communications and Media Officer, World Vision, Kenya

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