- An outbreak of hepatitis in northern Uganda has killed at least 9 people in four remote districts bringing death toll to 106 people since last October as it continues to spread across the region.
According to Director of clinical health services in Uganda, Kenya Mugisha, the disease has infected 6,563 people in northern districts of Kitgum, Gulu, Pader and Yumbe since first detection in October.
“Cases of deaths and new infections are almost half of what we have been registering in the past and situation is getting much better because of increased awareness, distribution of clean containers for water collection and storage and other supplies, and construction of more pit latrines among other interventions,” he said.
Hepatitis outbreak in Uganda camps, which is mainly transmitted through water contamination, is also common in South Sudan and refugee camps in Kitgum which are housing people displaced by a two decade insurgency by the rebel Lord's Resistance Army.
"The biggest problem has been personal hygiene, which is far below standards," said Joseph Wamara, an epidemiologist with health ministry, saying many of infected people have been confined to camps for years.
World Health Organisation which has been supporting the district’s Hepatitis E task force, said there has been a drastic decline in infection rate in Kitgum district, further indicating the district remains worst-hit by disease due to poor hygiene.
Kitgum Chairman Komakech John Ogwok said continued spread of hepatitis has forced council to enact by-laws aimed at controlling the disease. Some of them include; banning the use of water pots and drinking of local fermented drink believed to be a prime means of transmission.
Mr Ogwok, who is also chairperson of district Hepatitis Task Force, claimed jerricans and chlorine provided under government and WHO emergency programme have not helped to check spread of the disease.
According to a WHO report, approximately 70 percent of deaths have occurred among pregnant women.
Northern Uganda is barely emerging from two decades of civil war and its tens of thousands of displaced inhabitants still living in camps are particularly vulnerable.
Uganda has recently been hit by a string of epidemics including; ebola, meningitis, cholera, bubonic plague in West Nile and yellow fever. A rare strain of cholera ravaged eastern Uganda in June, killing 28 of 350 people who were infected.
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