- The World Health Organisation (WHO) today confirmed the outbreak of a cholera epidemic in Equatorial Guinea after rumours had trickled out of the closed country for two weeks. While WHO was speaking of an outbreak in the capital, Malabo, unofficial sources say that also Bata, the main city on the mainland, has been affected. At least 15 persons have been confirmed dead.
According to official confirmation by the UN's health agency, at least 15 persons have died as a direct consequence of the cholera epidemic in Malabo. In addition, 946 people are reported to have been confirmed as infected by the deadly bacteria. WHO so far only has reported cases in Malabo and its outskirts on the island of Bioko.
Sources close to the Equatoguinean opposition however started report a cholera outbreak in the country already two weeks ago. On 15 February, the Madrid-based Association for Democratic Solidarity with Equatorial Guinea (ASODEGUE) said in had been in contact with local sources describing cholera outbreaks in Malabo and in Bata. The Malabo Hospital already then had "designated a special zone for the cholera infected," ASODEGUE said.
WHO officials asked about the cholera outbreak two weeks ago said it was "too early" to confirm a possible epidemic. Meanwhile, the UN agency has sent blood samples to the Pasteur Institute in Yaoundé, Cameroon, which this afternoon confirmed that the persons fallen ill were suffering from cholera.
Dr Kalambay Kalula, the WHO representative in Equatorial Guinea, today told the UN news agency IRIN that "we have a confirmed epidemic of cholera," pointing to the results from the Pasteur Institute. "Up to this morning, we have 15 deaths and 946 cases linked to the outbreak," Mr Kalula added.
The Equatoguinean government has not wanted to confirm the cholera outbreak since rumours first started spreading a fortnight ago. Malabo authorities still remain silent on the issue, although the local WHO representative today confirmed that the government was involved in actions to localise the sources of the epidemic, finding clean water supplies and having the Malabo Hospital at emergency alert.
Neither the government nor the WHO representative has indicated the source of the current cholera outbreak. According to ASODEGUE's sources in Malabo, however, the Elá Nguema township of the capital has been particularly affected and the Matadero River running through Elá Nguema has "turned into an authentic sewage."
Cholera is a deadly waterborne disease spread through poor hygiene standards, mostly affecting poor societies that do not have access to clean water. The sanitation and sewerage systems of Malabo and other Equatoguinean towns have deteriorated strongly during the last decades and the government is frequently criticised for not investing its enormous oil revenues in social infrastructure.
There are periodic outbreaks of cholera in Equatorial Guinea, according to the travel and health advises of Western countries. There have however not been any cholera outbreaks in the country for several years and the Malabo government has earlier claimed it had eradicated the deadly disease.
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