2 July 2012

Uganda: Cholera Cripples Bududa One Week After Landslide

An outbreak of cholera has hit Bunakasala parish in Bulucheke sub-county in Bududa district, spelling double tragedy to the area that was struck by landslides last week.

Betty Mukyala, the Bududa acting district health officer disclosed in an interview on Sunday that three cholera patients from Bunakasala parish were admitted to Bushika Health Centre for treatment.

Mukyala attributed the outbreak to the inadequacy of safe water points in the parish located along the steep slopes of Mt. Elgon.

"Bunakasala parish had one spring well serving multitudes of people in the area. This well, however, was buried when landslides struck the area on June 25.

"As such, many residents are left with no option but to fetch surface water from contaminated streams that crisscross the parish for consumption and domestic use," Mukyala said.

Bududa district, like its neighbours Mbale and Pallisa, has been grappling with the cholera epidemic since February.

The disease has killed eight people with a cumulative figure of 197 cases. The district has gazzetted Bushika Health Centre as the cholera isolation treatment point.

Whereas the safe water coverage in the district is at 62%, the figure is a dismal 40% in Bulucheke sub-county.

Two policemen clean up in water flowing downhill said to be infested with human waste and accelerating the risk of catching cholera in Bududa district

So much fear and speculation

With the poor pit latrine coverage in Bulucheke estimated at about 41% coupled with the continuous rains pounding the area, health workers dread this could escalate the prevalence of cholera in Bulucheke.

"We started battling cholera in Bududa even before the rains started, hoping that we would stamp out the disease before the rains. This wasn't possible. Now that the landslide struck Bulucheke amidst the rainy season, we fear this could increase the cases of cholera and malaria in the area," Mukyala said.

"Our plan is to establish a mobile clinic within the area to curtail the impact of the disease and other preventable diseases."

David Tsolobi, the district community development officer explained that the fact that Bulucheke is located at the steep slope of the mountain, with a low water table makes the rise in cholera prevalence apparent.

"Though the general belief is that consumption of water from safe water points can prevent infection from diarrheal diseases such as cholera, it's a different case with Bulucheke and most sub-counties located on the slopes of the mountain here."

He says many people depend on water from streams and wells for domestic use yet people upstream usually contaminate this water through open defecation.

"Even the otherwise safe water points are contaminated when the runoff water from the heavy rains drains down the slope," Tsolobi said.

Stephen Womukota, the eastern regional disaster management officer for the Uganda Red Cross Society (URCS), said they had sunk five pit latrines in Bunakasala parish to step up the sanitation in the area and check the spread of cholera.

He added that URCS also distributed water purification tablets among residents in the parish.

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