At least 17 individuals have tragically lost their lives in a recent cholera outbreak in the Hammanskraal township, located near Pretoria, South Africa’s capital, according to authorities.
This updated death toll follows earlier reports from local health officials that initially stated 10 fatalities.
The outbreak has also led to an additional 29 confirmed cases of cholera through laboratory testing, with 67 individuals seeking medical treatment for gastrointestinal infections in hospitals and clinics.
While the precise origin of the cholera outbreak has yet to be confirmed by health authorities, inadequate wastewater management and instability within the local government of Pretoria have been identified as contributing factors.
The City of Tshwane Municipality, encompassing Pretoria and its surrounding areas, has witnessed five different mayors since the African National Congress party lost control of local governance in 2016.
According to the mayor of Pretoria, urgent upgrades estimated at approximately $130 million are required for a water plant responsible for wastewater management in a significant portion of Hammanskraal.
This facility has been operating below its capacity since 2005, exacerbating the current crisis.
South Africa now joins other southern African nations, such as Zimbabwe and Malawi, in grappling with cholera outbreaks.
Earlier this year, the World Health Organization reported a sharp increase in cholera cases across Africa, with at least 12 countries affected by outbreaks.
In Zimbabwe, health authorities have confirmed nine recent deaths related to cholera, along with 28 additional suspected cholera deaths since February.
The Ministry of Health has documented 1,404 suspected cholera cases, of which 359 have been confirmed through laboratory testing.
Malawi has also experienced a severe outbreak, with over 1,000 reported deaths and more than 36,000 cases since the onset of the crisis in March 2022.
This represents the country’s most extensive cholera outbreak in two decades, according to the World Health Organization.
Cholera is a water-borne disease primarily transmitted through the consumption of contaminated food or water.
Although highly infectious, it can be effectively treated once diagnosed.
To support the affected community, the NGO Gift of the Givers has distributed 3,200 sealed 5-litre water bottles to local healthcare facilities, including the Jubilee Hospital in Hammanskraal, where patients are receiving treatment.
In Zimbabwe, a country no stranger to cholera outbreaks, authorities have identified the capital city, Harare, as the epicenter of the current outbreak.
Some residents in certain suburbs have endured months without tap water, resorting to shallow wells and boreholes that have become contaminated due to raw sewage leakage from damaged pipes.
The cholera cases witnessed across Africa can be attributed to local sanitation challenges, as well as climatic factors like cyclones and floods that have recently affected parts of southern Africa.
Additionally, a global shortage of cholera vaccines has further complicated containment efforts.