UNICEF is actively aiding 13 countries in eastern and southern Africa to combat one of the most severe cholera outbreaks in recent years, as reported by Stephane Dujarric, the chief spokesman for UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, on Tuesday.
Since the beginning of the year, UNICEF has documented over 200,000 cases of cholera, resulting in more than 3,000 deaths in eastern and southern Africa. Dujarric emphasized that the outbreak has significantly strained healthcare systems and exposed weaknesses in sanitation and hygiene infrastructure. In response, UNICEF is distributing life-saving supplies for prevention and treatment across the region.
Dujarric highlighted that the agency is collaborating closely with government bodies and communities to advocate for hygiene practices, enhance water and sanitation infrastructure, and ensure that families can access the necessary information and resources to safeguard their children.
Zambia and Zimbabwe are among the countries hardest hit by the outbreak. In Zambia, since the first reported case in October 2023, over 9,500 people have been affected, resulting in 374 deaths and a case fatality rate of 3.9 per cent. UNICEF noted that nine out of 10 provinces in Zambia are now reporting cholera cases, with approximately 52 per cent of all cases affecting children under 15. Lusaka, the worst-affected district, bears over 90 per cent of the disease burden.
In Zimbabwe, where the outbreak began in February of the previous year, more than 18,000 cases have been reported across all 10 provinces, with 71 confirmed deaths and over 300 suspected deaths. Harare and Manicaland Provinces are particularly affected, with one in six new cholera infections impacting children under 5.
Despite the outbreak, Zimbabwe’s new school year has commenced as planned. However, in Zambia, the escalation of cholera has prompted the postponement of the school start date until January 29, affecting approximately 4.3 million students.