The cholera epidemic in southern Africa continues to abate, but international and local health authorities have stressed the need to remain vigilant, the United Nations said on Thursday.
"Overall, the duration and magnitude of the epidemic underscores the need for strengthening surveillance, preparedness and underscores plans in all countries," the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said in a statement.
There were 4 579 new cases of the often fatal disease between April 3 and 17 in nine African countries, Angola, Botswana, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Swaziland, Zambia and Zimbabwe. During the two weeks preceding April 3, 6 460 new cases were reported, OCHA said.
Cholera worsens with flooding
Authorities warned that cholera could re-appear in the coming one to three weeks, when waters from flooding in the region, which had affected more than 1.2 million people, subsided and became stagnant.
"Those displaced by the deluge lack access to shelter, water and sanitation facilities and are at higher risk of contracting the disease," OCHA said. To prevent that from happening, UN country teams and humanitarian partners planned to expedite their aid to flood victims.
In a number of countries, national cholera policies and contingency planning was also taking place in partnership with the UN World Health Organisation, the UN Children's Fund and other organisations.
The cumulative total of cholera cases reported in southern Africa since August 2008 stood at 155 692, including 96 718 cases in Zimbabwe, the worst affected country, the UN said. The total number of reported deaths stood at 4 686, with 4 218 of those in Zimbabwe, it added. – (Sapa, April 2009)
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