Cholera kills 17 in South Africa and 9 more in neighboring Zimbabwe

JOHANNESBURG — At least 17 people have died in a cholera outbreak in the township of Hammanskraal, outside the South African capital, Pretoria, authorities said on Wednesday.

The toll has risen from the first 10 deaths reported by local health authorities earlier this week.

Authorities said there were 29 more lab-confirmed cholera cases, while 67 people were admitted to hospital and clinics with gastrointestinal infections.

Health authorities have yet to confirm the exact source of the cholera outbreak, but poor sewage management and unstable local government in the South African capital are responsible for the situation. Tshwane City Municipality, which encompasses Pretoria and surrounding areas, has had at least five different mayors since the ruling African National Congress party lost control of local elections in 2016.

A water plant in Pretoria, responsible for managing sewage for large parts of Hammanskraal, needs urgent upgrades estimated at around $130 million and hasn’t been working properly for years, the city’s mayor said. city.

“It hasn’t had capacity since around 2005,” said Tshwane executive mayor Cilliers Brink, who was elected in March.

South Africa is the latest country in southern Africa to experience a cholera outbreak following deaths in neighboring Zimbabwe and Malawi this year. In February, the World Health Organization said cholera cases in Africa were rising exponentially amid a global outbreak. At least 12 African countries have reported cholera outbreaks this year.

Zimbabwean health authorities have confirmed nine recent deaths and 28 other suspected cholera deaths since February. The health ministry said it had recorded 1,404 suspected cholera cases and 359 laboratory-confirmed cases.

Malawi reported earlier this year that more than 1,000 people had died in a widespread outbreak that began in March 2022. It is Malawi’s worst cholera outbreak in 20 years, the WHO said, with more than 36,000 cases.

Cholera is a waterborne disease caused by ingesting contaminated food or water. The infection is extremely virulent, although it can be easily treated once identified.

The NGO Gift of the Givers has distributed over 3,200 sealed 5 liter water bottles to the local Jubilee Hospital in the Hammanskraal community and surrounding clinics where patients are treated.

In neighboring Zimbabwe, a country with a history of deadly cholera outbreaks, authorities say the capital, Harare, is becoming the epicenter of the current outbreak. Residents in some suburbs went for months without tap water, forcing them to dig shallow wells and boreholes that became contaminated with raw sewage from burst pipes.

Cholera cases in Africa have been attributed to local sanitation problems, but also to climatic factors such as cyclones and floods that recently hit parts of southern Africa, as well as a global shortage of cholera vaccines.


Mutsaka reported from Harare, Zimbabwe.


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