Officials with the UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency say they are “deeply alarmed” with the deteriorating situation in the Kyangwali area, where as of Thursday, 668 cholera cases have been reported in Kyangwali Refugee Settlement  in Hoima District in western Uganda.

Uganda/CIA
Uganda/CIA

UNHCR’s Public Health Officer, Dr. Julius Kasozi said, “Of these, 26 died, giving a case fatality rate of nearly four per cent.”

A case fatality rate of less than two percent is normally considered acceptable, and that the present trend demands an extraordinary response, Kasozi noted.

A Uganda Ministry of Health investigation indicates that the refugees from the Democratic Republic of Congo contract the infection from their places of origin and along the way to Uganda.

Dr. Kasozi confirmed that some of the patients crossing into Uganda over Lake Albert by boat present symptoms like diarrhea and severe dehydration on arrival. “It is possible that bacteria are spread through disease carriers who do not present symptoms, or through unhygienic practices like open defecation and drinking unsafe water from the lake,” he said.

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This year more than 42,000 people have crossed Lake Albert, bringing the total number of Congolese refugees in Uganda to over 251,000.

The Ministry immediately deployed a Rapid Response Team of 10 cholera control specialists and medical supplies.

A multi-agency Cholera Task Force convened by the Ministry of Health and UNHCR is meeting daily to coordinate the response. Partners are providing health personal, medical supplies and logistics support. Several technical teams are working at the landing site on the lakeshore, and in reception areas in Kyangwali settlement, conducting medical screening and treatment, community mobilization, clean water provision and hygiene promotion. There are 156 community health workers supporting the effort in the refugee settlement.

Two 50- and 30- bed cholera treatment units have established in Kasongo and Sebagoro respectively. Eight ambulances have been deployed to refer cases to the treatment units for medical care. WHO and UNICEF have donated two cholera kits with essential supplies for managing cases. UNHCR has made health workers, medicines and medical supplies available for the response.

Surveillance activities include house-to-house identification, referrals, reporting of cases, and analyzing of data, sources and trends. To strengthen preventive measures at community level, we are establishing 10 fixed oral rehydration corners at various points. Health partners will erect oral rehydration therapy corners at all primary health care facilities and feeding centers.