BUSINESS continues at Suam near River Bukwo on the Uganda-Kenya border, despite the outbreak of typhoid.Moses Kiptai, a resident, says despite the deaths, life goes on. â€œOur ancestors began drinking from this river hundreds of years ago.
They produced our parents, who have lived here for several years. We too, shall drink this water and will survive,â€ he says as he scoops water from the fast flowing river.
A team of doctors from Makerere University School of Public Health funded by the African Field Epidemiology Network (AFENET) to investigate the epidemic outbreak confirmed it was typhoid.
â€œAccording to our preliminary investigations the epidemic broke out around July 13 after the first case was reported at one of the markets near River Bukwo. The outbreak started from Kenya in early June,â€ says Dr. Luswa Lukwago, the health ministry field epidemiologist who headed the team.
The team was in the district for a week and visited the affected families, villages and hospitals where patients were admitted.
Lukwago says the vessel for contamination is River Bukwo. â€œWe discovered that every home had at least four patients. This means there is a lot of house-to-house infection.â€
The epidemic would have been contained if the community maintained hygiene.
â€œThe area is littered with faeces that flows into the river where people fetch water for drinking,â€ said Lukwago.
The district health officer, Collins Satya, says: â€œWe have registered over 600 cases of typhoid and registered 17 deaths. The majority are children and the youth.â€
The Bukwo district chairman, John Chelangant, says: â€œWe are lucky the epidemic has not reached the camps, we would have registered more deaths.â€
He urges the Government to help the district increase its safe water coverage, which is estimated at only 10%.
â€œWe have utilised sh15m out of the sh56m allocated for the health budget this year and yet the financial year has just began,â€ he says.
The resident district commissioner, Christopher Chepkurui Songhor, says the population in Bukwo needs to be sensitised on the need to maintain personal hygiene.
â€œWhen we tell them to boil water, they say it loses taste. We need to teach them not to plough near the river banks and the significance of latrines in every homestead,â€ he said.
The latrine coverage in Bukwo is less than 50%.
Steven Mangusho, the district health inspector, says 80% of the people in the district do not wash their hands.
Mangusho said the situation is aggravated by the fact that health inspectors at the sub-county are inadequately facilitated.
â€œMovement in this area is too hard. When it rains, the roads are impassable and communities flooded and yet the means to reach the affected areas are inadequate,â€ he said.
Carolyne Araptai, the secretary for social services, said efforts for the district to fill posts in health centre IIIs has hit a snug.
Chelangat said the district council had passed a resolution to add sh300,000 to the doctors salaries as an incentive.
He said over 10 health centres had been closed due to lack of manpower. But the team recommends that they be re-opened, promising to solicit support from the World Health Organisation for emergency kits for the typhoid outbreak.
AFENET supports the health ministry and the School of Public Health. It was influential in responding to the ebola outbreak in Bundibugyo and the swine flu outbreak in Uganda.
Outbreak in Bukwo