In-depth: Another Kenya - The humanitarian cost of under-development

KENYA: Cholera claims 24 lives in northwest

The cholera outbreak was caused by contamination of drinking water
Nairobi, 11 December 2009 (IRIN) - An outbreak of cholera in northwest Kenya has killed at least 24 people over the past two weeks according to a senior health official.

Some 193 cholera cases were recorded between 23 November and 9 December, said Director of Public Health Shahnaaz Sharif, adding that the Kapedo and Lokori areas of East Pokot district were the most affected.

However, Sharif said, there has been a decline in new cases; one was reported on 10 December.

"The outbreak is as a result of using contaminated water," he said adding that safe drinking water is being trucked in the region.

Boreholes are also being sunk, he added. Residents in East Pokot mainly rely on water pans and shallow wells, which easily get contaminated in case of heavy rain or sharing with livestock.

According to a December update by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, rains were undermining sanitation and hygiene practices.

"Cholera in some parts of Kenya has become endemic and with deteriorating /non-existence of public health and social services in poor urban settlements and continued public policy failures, the situation is worsening," it added.

In mid-November, residents of Kapnyung'uny village in neighbouring East Baringo district developed cholera-like symptoms with some deaths reported, according to the Kenyan Red Cross.

This caused some residents to flee towards areas such as Lomelo, Kapedo in East Pokot and the Silale and Nasorot hills with reported continuity of the disease’s symptoms, it added.

East Pokot borders the northern district of Turkana where another cholera outbreak is ongoing. Nairobi North District has also been affected.

The Red Cross has set up a medical camp to reach cholera patients in East Pokot. Along with health officials, the KRCS team is also conducting hygiene campaigns and distributing water purification tablets.