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Cholera cases in Kenya on the rise as Unicef calls for increased hygiene measures

In their latest situational report, the United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef) has issued a warning of a potential surge in cholera outbreaks throughout the country due to the ongoing rainfall. The report cites concern that the runoff water resulting from the rain could increase faecal-oral transmission due to contamination and heightened turbidity of open water sources, as well as the high levels of open defecation in ASAL areas.

Communities in these regions have resorted to using contaminated surface water sources instead of safe, rehabilitated and solar boreholes that are further from their settlements due to a shortage of water, drought, and the availability of surface water following the rain.

As a result, the outbreak is likely to intensify and spread to new hot spots in the riverine and lake areas, including in the Western region of Kenya and the urban informal settlements in major cities and towns.

According to Unicef data, since the first case of cholera was reported on October 8, 2022, a total of 2,845 (36%) of the cumulative 7,948 cases reported by March 31 this year are children under 10 years.

Nineteen counties have reported cases, with nine counties still experiencing active outbreaks, including Mandera (155), Nairobi (140), Kajiado (60), Samburu (38), Wajir (44), Machakos (20), Garissa (9), Marsabit (9), and Murang’a (1). Garissa and Tana River counties have the highest attack rates at 260.1 and 241.5 per 100,000, respectively, compared to the national rate of 35.6.

Since the beginning of the outbreak, the cumulative number of deaths is 131 (with a case fatality rate of 1.6%), exceeding the WHO threshold of less than 1%. Among the deaths reported, 63 (48%) are from Nairobi and Tana River counties, while Garissa and Wajir account for 24 (18%) deaths in total.

The report notes that heavy rainfall and flash floods have been reported in at least 20 counties, including Kisumu, Nyamira, Kisii, Kakamega, Siaya, Narok, Turkana, Isiolo, West Pokot, Bungoma, Elgeyo Marakwet, Marsabit, Samburu, Mandera, Wajir, Garissa, Nairobi, Kajiado, Kiambu, and Nakuru, according to assessments by the Kenya Red Cross Society. At least 5,038 households have been displaced, and 21 deaths have been reported, with Wajir (3,765), Marsabit (450), and Mandera (338) being the counties with the most displaced households.

In addition, damage to schools and roads infrastructure, as well as livestock loss, have been reported across the ASAL counties. As a result, Unicef calls for increased hygiene messaging and household water treatment, as well as an upscaling of activities to cover additional counties.

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