29 October 2009

Kenya: Race Against Time to Stem Cholera

Nairobi — Health personnel are working around the clock to stem the spread of cholera which has killed 11 people in Nairobi.

Embakasi district medical officer of health Atieno Adede said since the first case was reported five days ago in the sprawling Mukuru kwa Njenga slum, health officials had been working frantically to curb the highly contagious but preventable disease.

"From today, our clinic will operate on a 24-hour basis to ensure the outbreak is brought under control," Dr Adede said.

By Thursday, 949 people -- most of them pregnant women and children under five years -- had been treated for cholera and other water-borne diseases like diarrhoea, vomiting and dysentery.

The team has also pitched tent at St Mary's dispensary.

"The workers are disinfecting houses where deaths occurred and distributing chlorine tablets.

"It is unfortunate that so many people died from a disease which is easily preventable if simple hygiene measures are observed," Dr Adede said, adding that more staff had been deployed and medical supplies delivered on Thursday.

Poverty levels

"We need more oral rehydration salts and intravenous fluids," she said.

The doctor blamed the outbreak on high poverty levels which forced some residents to neglect basic hygiene standards.

She said more than 11 samples had been sent for testing at the National Public Health Laboratories and results were expected on Friday.

A spot check by Nation on Thursday revealed that scores of people were still hawking food in the slum.

Vendors cooked and sold mandazi and other food items next to open drains with dirty and stagnant water.

Water tankers were also doing brisk business, selling the scarce commodity.

On Monday, water services director John Nyaoro ordered tanker drivers to obtain documents from the Nairobi Water Company certifying that their water was fit for consumption.

"Residents should insist on seeing the certificates as unscrupulous vendors are taking advantage of the shortage to sell contaminated water," Mr Nyaoro said.

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