Monday, February 19, 2007



Miriam Ahmed's face contorts in pain as her frail and bony fingers clutch her stomach.
A sweat breaks on her head as she writhes in pain on her bed. The 16-year-old girl is the latest patient to be admitted to Mandera District Hospital following an outbreak of cholera in the area.

Ahmed is lucky. Two people, a 57-year-old man and his three-year-old son, have died since the disease broke out on January 10.

At least 20 people have been admitted while one has been discharged from the hospital. Ahmed is among the five who are recuperating in the isolation ward.

At the entrance of the ward is a footbath that is chlorinated to prevent visitors from entering or leaving with the virus.

The District Medical Officer of Health, Dr Boniface Musila, says the situation is under control. The affected areas are Bulla Mpya, Bulla Jamhuriya and Bulla Power, which have several

Shallow wells.

Public eateries have been closed down to stop the spread of the waterborne disease. "We hopefully will lift the ban on public eating places by the end of next week," Musila said.

Two patients were brought in as Musila talked to the press.

Stool samples for the dead victims tested positive for Cholera at the Kenya Medical Research Institute (Kemri).

Cholera kills within 24 hours of infection. Symptoms include vomiting and diarrhoea that causes severe dehydration and shock. The bacteria spread through contact with faeces and the disease is associated with heavy rains that flood latrines and contaminate water.

After the drought last year, Mandera was submerged in floods, which displaced 120,476 people.

An isolation ward that can accommodate up to 30 patients has been set up at the hospital. The Kenya Red Cross Society has given the hospital 1.5 tonnes of cholera kit.

But Mandera District Hospital Medical Superintendent, Dr Muktar Omar, said there was a shortage of nurses at the facility. "We have been forced to deploy those in rural areas to the district hospital," Omar says.

Mandera has 70 nurses, 40 at the district hospital and the rest in the dispensaries.
Omar said they need at least 120 nurses. "We are pleading with the Government to speed up deployment of more staff to the area," Omar says.

Rift Valley Fever outbreak is another problem the district has to deal with.

Omar says the Government has pledged to post a dentist and a medical officer but he says they need at least two more medical officers.

Red Cross and the Ministry of Health are conducting public education in the district. They have drawn samples from wells and other water points. The water has been treated to prevent further spread of the disease.

Musila said Ethiopian immigrants might have brought the disease into the country.
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"The borders are very porous and it is possible that someone came from Ethiopia with the disease and infected the Moyale residents," he said.

He said they have partnered with Action Aid and the Ministry of Water, whose task is to identify contaminated points and chlorinate them.

The Islamic Relief Organisation is providing water to the hospital