Three people have died and 155 others diagnosed with cholera-related symptoms in six villages in Tana North Sub County in the last two weeks.
County Public Health Officer Samuel Jefwa says the problem had been compounded by the migration of people in search of water and pasture for their animals adding that it had become extremely difficult to trace active infections and those who may have come into contact with victims.
“Out of the 155 suspected cases, 56 have tested positive for cholera while three samples taken for laboratory examination have been confirmed,” Jefwa told a County Steering Group meeting.
“Unless we trace the infected and those who have come into contact with victims, our efforts may not yield much fruit,” Jefwa said adding that the health team was “shooting in the dark,” as it struggles to identify the source of the outbreak.
Jefwa said his team was also facing logistical challenges such as lack of vehicles, fuel and allowances for health workers and presented a budget of Sh 2.1 million to the committee for funding.
The CSG has appealed to the Ministry of Health and other partners to provide logistical support to the health experts in the county with a view to stopping the pandemic.
The CSG, with the help of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the Kenya Red Cross Society and other partners, has also launched a massive public health education campaign and the distribution of non-food items to affected communities.
Two-lorry loads of non-food items provided by UNICEF are expected in the region for use by the communities to avoid consuming contaminated water and food, County Commissioner Oningoi ole Sosio, who chaired the CSG meeting, said.
The group that handles disaster emergencies and food insecurity also appealed to the Medicins Sans Frontier (doctors without boundaries) to help set up at least three cholera treatment units in Chewele, Hirimani and Madogo wards for patients to be quarantined and treated.
Sosio said the drought conditions that have hit most parts of the county could have contributed to the outbreak and called on the Coast Water Services Board, the Tana River County Government and the Tana Water and Sanitation Company to provide water bowsers for water trucking and other logistical support.
“This outbreak has become a disaster that may claim many lives if urgent measures are not taken,” the administrator said as he urged the Ministry of Health Headquarters to send experts to the ground to solve the riddle.
He said that health officials from the neighbouring county set up a cholera treatment unit in Madogo.