Tanzania is facing a major cholera outbreak, counting nearly 5,000 cases and dozens of deaths, the World Health Organization said Thursday, calling for urgent action to stop the disease from spreading to neighbouring countries.
The UN health agency said that from August until October 21, more than 4,900 cases of cholera had been tallied in 12 regions of Tanzania and 74 people had died.
The East African country’s largest city Dar es Salaam was most affected with about 3,500 cases, said Dominique Legros, head of WHO’s cholera unit.
The fact that the disease had reached the city, which is home to more than four million people, sparked great concern, he said, adding that Dar es Salaam’s size and its numerous slum areas was “making things more complicated in terms of access to water and to build latrines.”
Cholera, which is transmitted through contaminated drinking water and causes acute diarrhoea, most recently spread to an island in the Zanzibar archipelago, which in a matter of days acknowledged that 140 people had died, Legros said.
Cholera is endemic in the region and Legros warned that the looming rainy season, with a “very bad” weather forecast, threatened to push the outbreak beyond Tanzania’s borders.
“We have to really be ready for this and try to control the outbreak as soon as possible in Tanzania,” Legros said.
WHO said it urgently needed $2m to ramp up efforts to control the outbreak, which included water trucks, chlorinating water and treatment for the sick.