Kenya: Cholera Update Information Bulletin No. 5


Kenya has in the recent past faced a public health crisis with outbreaks of cholera being reported in one province after another. The figures presented in this bulletin are cumulative since January 2009 and submitted by the Kenya Red Cross Focal Persons in respective provinces in consultation with the Ministry of Public Health and Sanitation.

The Situation

Kenya has been experiencing outbreaks of Cholera, dysentery and other diarrheal diseases related to poor access to safe water and effective sanitation systems. The ongoing drought and acute water shortage in most parts of the country, low latrine coverage in most Kenyan communities, high poverty levels and traditional beliefs related to disposal of human wastes, household practices on personal hygiene and food safety have been identified as key factors leading to increasing transmission.

Historical Background

Major outbreaks of Cholera have been reported in Kenya since mid 1997 and have been affecting mainly four provinces including Nyanza, Eastern, Rift Valley and Nairobi recurrently. Within these provinces, transmission has been high from one district to another, this being attributed to patterns of people's movements some of which are disease carriers. Disposal of human waste in open field has also been identified as a key factor in transmission as these wastes often washed to the streams and underground water reservoirs like wells which serves as communal water points.

Following these outbreaks, hundreds of people have lost their lives to the epidemics. In 2008 at the peak of the Post Election Violence after the 2007 General Election, 16 districts in the country reported outbreaks of Cholera alone. The following is a highlight of reported outbreaks per province.

Factors contributing to rapid spread

- Proximity of latrines to water sources (read wells mainly in Kisumu slums) and consequent cross contamination.

- Poor food preparation and handling practices by road side food vendors.

- Poor access to safe water to communities in the slum and rural areas.

- As a result of looming drought situation in parts of upper eastern region all the shallow wells have dried up leading to communities using contaminated water from the rivers

- The drought situation has also lead to an increase in malnutrition cases hence leading to lowered immunity thus the community is susceptible to diarrhea related diseases.