At least 17 people have lost their lives in a cholera outbreak in the Hammanskraal township, located near the capital of South Africa, Pretoria, as confirmed by authorities on Wednesday.
The number of casualties has increased from the initial 10 deaths reported earlier this week by local health authorities.
Health officials have stated that there are 29 additional cholera cases confirmed through laboratory tests. Furthermore, 67 individuals have been admitted to hospitals and clinics due to gastrointestinal infections.
Although the exact source of the cholera outbreak is yet to be confirmed by health authorities, the poor management of wastewater and the unstable local government in the capital city of South Africa have been held responsible for the situation.
The City of Tshwane Municipality, which encompasses Pretoria and its surrounding areas, has witnessed the appointment of at least five different mayors since the ruling African National Congress party lost control in the local government elections of 2016.
The mayor of the city mentioned that urgent upgrades are required for a water plant in Pretoria responsible for managing wastewater in significant portions of Hammanskraal. These upgrades are estimated to cost approximately £130 million and have been neglected for several years.
Cilliers Brink, the executive mayor of Tshwane, who was elected in March, stated, “The plant has been operating beyond its capacity since around 2005.”
Following the cholera-related deaths in neighboring Zimbabwe and Malawi earlier this year, South Africa has now joined the list of southern African countries experiencing a cholera outbreak. The World Health Organization highlighted a significant increase in cholera cases in Africa, with at least 12 African nations reporting outbreaks this year.
In Zimbabwe, health authorities have confirmed nine recent deaths, along with 28 suspected cholera-related deaths since February. The Ministry of Health recorded 1,404 suspected cholera cases and 359 laboratory-confirmed cases.
Earlier this year, Malawi reported over 1,000 deaths in a widespread outbreak that began in March 2022. The World Health Organization described it as the worst cholera outbreak in Malawi in 20 years, with over 36,000 cases reported.
Cholera is a waterborne disease caused by consuming contaminated food or water. While the infection is highly virulent, prompt identification allows for effective treatment.
The NGO, Gift of the Givers has distributed over 3,200 sealed 5-litre water bottles to Jubilee Hospital and local clinics in the Hammanskraal community to support the treatment of patients.
In Zimbabwe, a country with a history of deadly cholera outbreaks, authorities have declared the capital city, Harare, as the epicenter of the current outbreak. Residents in some suburbs have endured months without tap water, resulting in the necessity to dig shallow wells and boreholes, which have been contaminated by raw sewage from burst pipes.
The cholera cases in Africa have been attributed to local sanitation problems as well as climatic factors such as cyclones and floods that have recently affected parts of southern Africa. Additionally, there is a global shortage of cholera vaccines.
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