The cholera risk remains high in villages around entry points for asylum seekers in Kigoma region, Western Tanzania. The daily influx of asylum seekers has caused the population in the Nyarugusu camp in Tanzania to swell to over 55 500.

Vibrio cholerae/CDC
Vibrio cholerae/CDC

Since the start of the outbreak on 10 May 2015, 4662 suspected/confirmed cholera cases and 34 deaths have been reported. Among these are 129 cases and 3 deaths among Tanzanians, mainly in Kagunga village, Kigoma urban and Karago village.

The increasing numbers in affected local populations is worrisome and has prompted a scale-up of standard cholera prevention and control interventions as well as pre-emptive measures such as the use of oral cholera vaccines (OCV). These vaccines can contribute to preventing outbreaks among populations living in high risk areas, where usually recommended control measures are not sufficient.

On Monday, 15 June 2015, the Kigoma Regional Commissioner convened the Regional Primary Health Care Committee to announce the vaccination campaign in high risk areas in the Kigoma region. The Committee agreed on details of how the campaign will be carried out and which high risk villages would receive the vaccine.

The OCV campaign outside the camp will span four days with 28 vaccination teams targeting a population of 54 110. In addition to OCV, the Regional Commissioner emphasised that the provision of safe water, sanitation and personal hygiene will continue to be the main cholera prevention and control measures.

“To support the campaign, WHO and partners have mobilized 164 500 doses of OCV and they will be provided to all refugees at the Nyarugusu camp, as well as at-risk Tanzanian communities neighbouring the camp, and identified villages such as Kagunga, Karago and Kigoma Ujiji,” says Dr Rufaro Chatora, World Health Organization (WHO) Representative for Tanzania.

Dr Chatora says experience indicates that mass vaccination campaigns cannot be improvised at the last moment – they need careful, advanced planning and preparation, including improving risk assessment, identification of target populations and logistics.

“Carrying out social mobilization, including door-to-door campaigns and health education is a key component to educate populations and inform district and community leaders about the disease. Additional staff from WHO and UNICEF have arrived to support the Regional Health Management Team and facilitate the coordination and preparation of the campaign in order to reach and protect as many people as we can,” Dr Chatora adds.

To further prevent the spread to local populations, District Response teams are conducting targeted household water treatment with water guard in the affected families; strengthening disinfection in the households that have referred cases, intensifying hygiene promotion in the general communities and strengthening case management.

WHO continues to support the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare to strengthen local health facilities along Lake Tanganyika’s shores by stocking them with enough medical supplies to treat new cholera cases and other common ailments. WHO is recruiting public health experts to work with the Regional Medical Team on surveillance and outbreak control. If required, support will be provided to re-deploy Government health workers to provide essential medical care should caseloads increase.