Angola: cholera cases rising again

تم النشر: 5 ديسمبر 2006 0:00 CET

Rana Sidani in Angola

Angelina Do Santos is a 65 years old farmer. Recently, she felt a bad pain in her stomach and rapidly it developed into a severe diarrhea and vomiting. In just a few hours, she lost a lot of body fluids and salts. She was unable to move. “I though it was a simple diarrhea due to the dirty water I had taken, until a doctor told me that I have cholera,” she says.

Angelina, was lucky to be immediately treated in the suburb of Angola’s capital, Luanda, to compensate her body fluids before being evacuated, on a motorcycle, to Cacuoco medical center, 10 km from Luanda city. Many cholera patients get dehydrated and die on their way to medical centers because of long journeys on bad roads.

This is yet another unfolding chapters of the cholera outbreak in Angola which has seriously increased since it first started in February 13, 2006. The rain season favored the spread of the epidemic. Figures provided by the Angolan Ministry of Health and the World Health Organization shows a national figure of more than 100 cases everyday. A few months ago, the daily average was 50 cases. Cholera first started in five provinces, but now, 16 out of Angola’s 18 provinces are registering cases.

Death toll is estimated to be up to 2442 deaths since February. On 14 Nov 2006, 176 cases have been registered. Seven patients died. This brings the cumulative number of cases to 59,694. The most hit provinces are: Huila (59 new cases), Cunene (27), Uige (23) and Kuando Kubango (22).

Some provinces, such as Cunene, had never been affected. The first case was identified in September and since then Cunene became the province with the highest rate of morbidity. “The number of death cases has been escalating because the medical infrastructure there is inadequate,” said Dr.Guy Clarysse, UNICEF Health Coordinator. “Hospitals don’t even have beds for cholera patients, so they lay on the ground which favors contamination,” he added.

In order to adjust its humanitarian activities to the new development, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent societies plans to revise its initial appeal seeking 740,000 Euro which is only 28% covered.

Abel Augustino, the International Federation 's Water and Sanitation delegate, stresses the need for scaling up humanitarian activities to respond to the growing number of cholera cases.

“More resources are critically required in order to expand our humanitarian efforts from five provinces where cholera first started to 12 heavily affected provinces”.

Funds collected will cover the needs “to provide 270,000 households with safe water, better health and hygiene education for the next 6 months,” he added.

Lack of awareness seems to be the most crucial gap in addressing the cholera epidemic. To prevent, alleviate and cure cholera, people need to be aware of how to ensure safe water, wash hands, manage cholera cases, etc.

Unfortunately, many people are not aware of cholera and confuse it with other epidemics or even with witchcraft. Some think it is a simple diarrhea, others think it is a curse from God or evil.

Measures to prevent the epidemic are neither understood by the population nor considered as priorities. For instance, the population prefer to use the little gas for cooking instead of boiling water. Angelina drank from any available water source on her farm. “I never boiled the water I am drinking. I didn’t think it is necessary,” she says.

Angola Red Cross (ARC) have been conducting door to door social mobilization and awareness campaigns to inform people on how to have safe water and manage cholera .92,000 households have been reached since the begining of epidemic. On November 13, a team of 8 volunteers distributed ORS, water purification tablets, jerrycans to store purified water and soaps to 100 families in Cacuaco Municipality.

“With the start of the rain seasons, our work has become more difficult because mud is all over the place and we don’t have proper shoes” said Maria Deceun, ARC volunteer in Kawelele branch in Cacuaco.

Cacuaco was one of the first areas hit by cholera due to lack of proper waste disposal and access to safe water.