France-based Medicines sans Frontiers (MSF) said on Thursday, that this cholera epidemic in Angola has become a national emergency. MSF head of mission in Angola, Richard Veerman told that there are over 20,000 cases and 941 deaths, reported but he cautioned that it hasn't yet reached the peak. MSF said the disease had spread from the capital Luanda to the coastal city of Benguela and interior provinces such as Malange, with the total number of cases expected to double, they said that they are hoping to try and contain the deaths. The seven provinces hit by the disease are Luanda, Bengo, Beguela, Kuanza North, Kuanza Sorth, Malange and Huambo.
It has been reported that Tuesday witnessed the highest daily toll till date, with 929 new cases and 25 deaths. In the last week MSF reported an average of 30 newly infected people and one death every hour. At one MSF's treatment centres in Luanda alone, there were 240 new patients in over a 24-hour period.
Earlier this year Angolan Health Minister Sabastiao Veloso had said the outbreak was under control. But the health official's claim the recent rains to have exacerbated the situation. The officials said that this was the first cholera outbreak in the capital Luanda in more than 10 years. They claimed that interior parts of Angola have not seen cholera for even longer as people rarely travelled there during the war and the disease had little chance to spread outward from the urban slums. Richard Veerman said that the country is still rebuilding after many years of civil war, hence that he felt was why the response to the outbreak is slower than needed.
Overcrowding and poor sanitation have fuelled the epidemic in the country's many slums inhabited by internal refugees who remain displaced after the country's devastating 27-year civil ended in 2002. The oil-rich Angola is in the midst of a petrol dollar fuelled building boom, currently spending billions of dollars rehabilitating infrastructure and communications.
Cholera is often transmitted through water and food that has become contaminated with feces. It can also be transmitted through direct physical contact with an infected person. Left untreated, it can kill up to 50 percent of those it infects. The water-born epidemic infects people with symptoms like vomiting and diarrhoea that combine to cause dehydration.