The African continent, especially its eastern region, is experiencing its harshest drought of the past 45 years, bringing with it a whole host of diseases caused by water scarcity and negative health and hygiene consequences.
While environmental degradation relentlessly continues to dash chances of reversing the negative effects of a season in which death has turned into a recurring nightmare, it seems that there will be a delay in responding to international calls for aid.
Adding to the general climactic instability manifested in the drought and flooding of the past few months are cholera outbreaks, which violently strike children who are weakened by malnutrition and seriously affected by disease and chaotic migratory flows where families try to escape armed conflicts, which in turn aggravate habitats.
During the dry season, Africa continued to report cases of cholera in refugee camps and camps hosting displaced people, where hygiene is very much an illusion. Traditionally, such urban centres have largely remained on the sidelines in terms of medical attention, which means they become sites for a slow death.
Life is increasingly difficult in these places that are far from a miracle and susceptible to tragedy, evidenced by the spread of disease epidemics that are curable in other parts of the world, yet within the confines of the African continent become lethal.
In 2016, there were 550 registered deaths caused by cholera in eight eastern and southern African countries, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) in its annual review, which provided reference data regarding forecasts for 2017 when outbreaks may be worse.
“Almost 50,000 people were infected by the disease after the most recent outbreak in Ethiopia, Malawi, Mozambique, South Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda, Zimbabwe and Kenya”, outlined the source, stating that the issue is not just confined to the Horn of Africa and the Great Lakes…
In the eastern area of the continent, the period of intense drought is creating a polluted and morbid atmosphere, both linked to the lack of drinking water and a significant deterioration of the living organisms that depend on it, leading to malnutrition, multiplication of parasites etc.
According to OCHA, Tanzania is the hardest hit by the current epidemic outbreak, where the disease has reached Dar es Salaam, the nation’s capital.
However, the cholera outbreak has also significantly spread to South Sudan, which has been affected by the armed conflict that was triggered in December 2013. In the country’s second largest city, Malakal, the overall number of reported cases has surpassed 5,500.
In February, more than 300 suspected cases of cholera were registered in the counties of Yirol East and Awerial, but that number is expected to rise because, according to sources from medics and patients, “what the remote village people arriving in health centres are recounting is alarming”.
In South Sudan, the health situation is also hugely affected by the lack of rainfall and the phenomenon of a three-year war and its consequences, one of those being migration, which often destroys man’s access to food supplies; this leads to a lack of food security, which is a disadvantage in the face of disease.
The presence of cholera has been confirmed in 14 South Sudan counties, with at least 137 deaths since last December.
Up until March 2017, 196 individuals died in Somalia from drought, while more than 7,900 are affected by new outbreaks of cholera. There is a poignant link between climatic instability and shortages in food, clean water and medical care, which together breed insecurity.
Moving further south to Mozambique, the lack of sanitation and intense rainfall caused the second scourge of the disease in two years. In February, the State officially declared a new outbreak of the disease, which in 2015 infected around 8,000 and killed 60.
Cholera has spread to five provinces of the flood-ridden country: Matola, Maputo, Zambezia, Nampula and Tete. There have been over 500 cases in the space of two months and at least a dozen deaths.
Nevertheless, mapping the existence of the disease shows that around 60% of Africa is hit by the tragedy of cholera and also indicates how the disease spread towards the states surrounding the Lake Chad Basin, linked to an increase of displaced people in the area who are fleeing the brutality of the terrorist group Boko Haram.
To address the situation, which also includes a risk in the proliferation of meningitis, measles and polio, the UN petitioned for 2.660 billion dollars this year, with which it hopes to offer assistance to around 15 million people in an area that in practice crosses the entire continent. (PL) * Chief Editor for Africa and the Middle East
Photos: Pixabay y Wikipedia – (Translated by Abaigh Wheatley – Email: firstname.lastname@example.org)