Escalating Cholera Crisis Grips Africa with Unprecedented Severity

A picture shows a cholera patient in Harare, Zimbabwe, dated Nov. 19, 2023.

In Lilanda, Zambia, Africa has faced several extreme weather events in recent years, leading to cholera outbreaks due to flooding and droughts.

With more than 6,000 deaths and 350,000 cases, Malawi, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Kenya, Ethiopia, and Somalia have all been severely impacted by cholera outbreaks.

Climate experts, scientists, and aid agencies explain that the rise in cholera outbreaks in Africa can be linked to frequent extreme weather events affecting water sources and sanitation.

Tulio de Oliveira, a scientist studying developing world diseases, attributes the surge in cholera outbreaks to cyclones causing floods, carrying the bacteria to new areas in Southern Africa.

Zimbabwe and Zambia have witnessed rising cholera cases due to severe droughts, forcing people to use unsafe water sources like boreholes and rivers, leading to contamination.

Cholera thrives where there is poor sanitation and lack of clean water, making Africa 8 times more affected than the Middle East due to the impact of climate change, according to health experts.

Africa is particularly vulnerable due to the worst impacts of climate change and the El Niño weather phenomenon, coupled with a global shortage of cholera vaccines, primarily needed in poorer countries.

A shortage of oral cholera vaccines in the global stockpile has led to a critical situation in Africa, where 15 countries are desperately requesting more doses to combat deadly outbreaks.

Cholera outbreaks remain contained mostly in rich countries while they spread rampantly in poorer nations like Zambia, leaving communities like Lilanda, Zambia, at high risk with limited resources and inadequate infrastructure.

Mildred Banda’s tragic loss of her son Ndanji to cholera highlights the devastating impact of the shortage of cholera vaccines, with Zambia not being able to undertake preventive vaccinations due to lack of supplies.

The scarcity of vaccines has led to unnecessary deaths, like Ndanji’s, in countries like Zambia, where cholera should not be a fatal disease with the availability of effective treatments and preventive measures.

Zimbabwe, facing a cholera crisis exacerbated by droughts and urbanization, has seen the disease spread to rural areas, affecting more districts and highlighting the dire consequences of climate change.

MSF representative for Zimbabwe, Abi Kebra Belaye, emphasizes that southern Africa is bearing the brunt of climate change, with cholera outbreaks rising in rural areas, putting vulnerable populations at risk.

Augustine Chonyera’s account of visiting Buhera, a rural district in Zimbabwe affected by cholera, underscores the severity of the situation, with families losing multiple members and local businesses aiding in transportation for treatment.

Chonyera’s experience shows the urgency of addressing the cholera crisis in Africa, where preventive measures and access to clean water are crucial in saving lives and preventing further outbreaks.

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