The Cause of the Deadly Cholera Outbreak in Southern Africa | Health News

There is currently a severe epidemic of cholera spreading across communities in Southern Africa, crossing borders and creating the worst crisis in the region involving the illness in a decade. Thousands of people have died and thousands more have been infected with the acute diarrheal disease in at least seven countries. The outbreak has forced millions of students to stay home in some of the hardest-hit countries. Emergency response centers are being set up in school fields and stadiums, and healthcare staff are concerned about being overwhelmed.

Leaders of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) addressed the outbreak and vowed to stop the spread, but identified a lack of clean water, weak cross-border checks, and a global shortage of vaccines as potential obstacles.

Since January 2022, at least 188,000 people have been infected with cholera across the seven affected countries, and more than 4,100 people have died. The outbreak began in 2022 and has been steadily spreading, with monthly cases peaking in January 2024. The outbreak is believed to be caused by a combination of regular cross-border movement, poor sanitation, and increased flooding due to climate change. Cholera vaccines are in short supply, with only one manufacturer producing the dose, and a limited supply available.

Leaders in the SADC have vowed to increase funding for water systems and develop a cross-country response plan to monitor the spread of cholera. Meanwhile, in Zambia, authorities have delayed the resumption of school and are working with organizations like the WHO and Africa CDC to address the outbreak. However, community-based campaigns and improved water and sanitation hygiene practices are seen as crucial to curbing the outbreak. The rainy season is expected to last through February, which may lead to increased infections due to flooding.

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