Tanzania cholera epidemic deaths among Burundian refugees and local population halted, new cases down sharply
This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson Adrian Edwards – to whom quoted text may be attributed – at today's press briefing at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.
In western Tanzania's Lake Tanganyika area, containment measures to deal with a cholera epidemic that has claimed some 30 lives among refugees and the local community appear to be working with no new deaths reported since last Thursday.
A death that last week was reported as being cholera has now been reclassified as the cause of death was not diarrhoea, meaning that the total cholera death toll has been revised downwards by one to 30.
In all, 4,408 cases have so far been reported, but the number of new cases daily has fallen to around 100 from a peak of 915 on 18th May. The reduction in the reported cases is largely due to the concerted approach to contain the spread of the outbreak through intensified measures to promote hygiene. For now the situation is improving, but resolving it fully may take several weeks.
UNHCR, WHO, and our partners are working closely with the Tanzanian health authorities to ensure treatment of patients and to strengthen prevention measures, including improved access to safe water and sanitation. A Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) team is running the Cholera Treatment Centres in Kagunga and supporting other partners in Kigoma. The health programme at the Nyarugusu refugee camp is being run by the Tanzanian Red Cross and MSF is setting up the Cholera Treatment Centre.
The village of Kagunga, one of the epicentres for the outbreak and which until only recently was hosting tens of thousands of people, has now been almost emptied of refugees. Around 30,000 people there have been moved to the Nyagurusu refugee camp, and we hope to complete the movements of the remaining few thousand refugees either today or tomorrow. Arrangements have begun for massive decontamination.
At the Tanganyika stadium in Kigoma, another epicentre, efforts to improve the water and sanitation situations have also been showing positive results with fewer critical cases appearing. Currently, at both Kagunga and in Kigoma, there is still a shortage of bed nets and malaria is still a concern.
In Nyarugusu, all refugees go through vaccination for childhood illnesses, deworming and have a nutritional assessment done. Work is being done to expand the camp's capacity.
Across the region, the outflow of refugees from Burundi has not stopped, but rates are currently down to about 100 arrivals a day in each of the main receiving countries. Taking into account revised figures we've received, there are at present more than 90,000 Burundian refugees in the region, including 10,000 from Democratic Republic of the Congo, 47,000 in Tanzania, 28,000 in Rwanda, and 5,500 in Uganda.
For more information on this topic, please contact:
- In Kinshasa, Celine Schmitt on mobile +243 81 700 94 84
- In Nairobi (regional), Terry Ongaro on mobile +254 735 337 608
- In Tanzania, Massoumeh Farman Farmaian on mobile +255 784 616 601
- In Geneva, Adrian Edwards on mobile +41 79 557 9120