Government admits it cannot test for cholera


By James Ratemo and Karanja Njoroge

Government has run out of reagents to test for cholera despite the rising death toll that has hit 119 this month alone.

The Ministry of Health has urgently requested Sh553 million from Treasury to curb the epidemic against reports that public health officials have run out of resources.

Out of the 4,560 acute watery diarrhoea cases reported this month, health officials have confirmed 190 cholera cases only. In the last week alone, 50 people died out of the 110 who tested positive of the disease.

Public Health Minister Beth Mugo yesterday told The Standard public health officials have no vehicles to carry out efficient surveillance of the disease.

Replenish supplies

"We are running out of reagents to test cholera. That is very urgent. We cannot confirm whether it is cholera or not. My officers have no vehicles at district level to facilitate surveillance," said Mrs Mugo.

She, however, said there were enough medical supplies to fight the disease, but need urgent replenishing.

"With the rising cases of the disease, we need to replenish our medical supplies too," she said.

Currently, Turkana Central District is the worst hit with 10 deaths and 31 confirmed cholera cases reported in the last week alone.

Out of 564 cases of acute diarrhoea cases (cholera-like symptoms) reported in the last week, 217 were in Turkana South, 88 in East Pokot, 86 in Turkana Central and 83 in Nairobi’s Kasarani District.

Therapeutic kitties

Red Cross Society Deputy Secretary General James Kisia said his officials were working round the clock in worst hit areas with at least 10,000 cholera therapeutic kitties supplied.

Kenya has experienced cholera outbreaks in a number of provinces since last December.

This month alone, Turkana South has registered the highest number of acute diarrhoea cases at 1,428, followed by Turkana Central 1,244, Turkana North 367, Chalbi in Eastern 332, Kitui North 289, Laisamis (Eastern) 254, and Lamu 249.

And even as the minister spoke, residents of East Pokot, where 40 people are feared to have died from Cholera, have accused the Government of failing to adequately respond to the epidemic. They said not a single senior State official has visited the area since the disease hit the district last week to assess the situation.

According to locals more people continue to die from the disease in remote areas.

Facilitate movement

"A poor road network is making it impossible for medical personnel to access some hard hit areas," said former Silale Ward Councillor Paicarita Kitilit.

Mr Kitilit called on the Government to avail a helicopter to facilitate movement of medics.

Baringo East ODM Chairman Pepe Kitamba said most patients are still in the bush without means to take them to Hospital.

"The outbreak is serious and we are disappointed with the way the Government is handling it," he said, adding the epidemic should be declared a national disaster.

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