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Health officials fear drought might ignite cholera outbreak in Kisumu

By Kevin Ogutu | Published Mon, January 9th 2017 at 10:39, Updated January 9th 2017 at 10:50 GMT +3
Herds of cattle jostle for water as early as 10am as men and women wash clothes and collect water in plastic containers. (Photo: Denish Ochieng/ Standard)

The health department has warned of a looming cholera outbreak in Kisumu as residents and livestock jostle for water.

A prolonged dry spell in the area has reduced many streams into stagnant pools.

County Health Chief Officer Ojwang Lusi said Cholera was more likely to start and spread fast with the low volumes of water in the county.

"When an outbreak occurs upstream when the water levels are low, it means that the bacteria become more concentrated in the water and thus a reason why it is likely to spread faster," he said.

The drought, which has now entered its fifth month with negligible sparse rainfalls in between, has seen water levels in rivers Auji, Nyamasaria, Kibos and Nyando reduce tremendously.

For example, the once expansive, fast-flowing River Nyamasaria on the outskirts of Kisumu Town is a pale shadow of itself.

Herds of cattle come to drink as early as 10am as men and women wash clothes and collect water in plastic containers.

But for thirsty residents, cholera forms the least of their worries-running out of water in the sweltering heat is worrying enough.

"We are afraid that the river might just dry out this time round given the rate at which its waters are diminishing," says Monica Anyango, who had gone to the river to wash her children's clothes.

Her family uses water from the river for domestic purposes. The continued drying up of the river is a cause for alarm.

"We drink water from this river because we don't have access to piped water, which water vendors sell at exorbitant prices," she says.

The health department called on residents who draw raw water from the drying rivers to either treat or boil it before use.

Kisumu has been hit by cholera outbreaks in the past.

In 1997, the county suffered its worst cholera epidemic that lasted until 1999, with more than 33,400 reported cases.

In 2007, another outbreak that swept through the region, especially in Bondo and Siaya, left 35 people dead.

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