Uganda vaccinates more than 360,000 people against cholera

May 10, 2018

The immunisation drive is part of efforts to control an ongoing cholera outbreak which has affected both refugees from the Democratic Republic of Congo and host populations.

PIC: Mangoes being sold from the streets of Kampala. Food should be sold from a hygienic place which is free from contamination 


HOIMA- The Government, with support from the World Health Organisation (WHO) is conducting a campaign to vaccinate more than 360,000 people against cholera in six hotspot areas of Hoima district. 

The immunisation drive is part of efforts to control an ongoing cholera outbreak which has affected both refugees from the Democratic Republic of Congo and host populations. 

According to a press statement from the WHO country office, the campaign will involve use of vaccines dispatched from the GAVI-funded global stockpile.

"The oral cholera vaccine is a key weapon in the fight against cholera," said Dr Yonas Tegegn Woldemariam, the WHO representative for Uganda, in a statement. 

However, Woldemariam added that in addition to the vaccine, it is important that other efforts such as improving water, sanitation and hygiene are stepped up, otherwise cholera will continue to haunt communities."

Facts about cholera

According to the Ministry of Health, cholera is a serious acute infectious disease characterized by watery diarrhoea and vomiting. If not attended to fast, a patient can die within hours.

It is spread through eating and drinking food contaminated with faeces of an infected person. Other factors responsible for the spread of cholera include; poor personal hygiene such as not washing hands after using the latrine, using contaminated water, poor sanitation, open defecation, eating foods or drinks prepared under unhygienic conditions.

Outbreak declared in Hoima in February

The health ministry declared a cholera outbreak in Hoima on February 23 and as of April 29, there were a cumulative total of 2,119 suspected and confirmed cases with 44 reported deaths.

According to information from WHO, the six hot spots in Hoima district for the outbreak are Kyangwali, Kigorobya Kabwoya and Buseruka sub-counties. Others are Kigorobya Town council and Kyangwali Refugee Settlement. High-risk groups in these places include children, mobile populations, particularly those living in fishing communities and border communities near Congo.

Information from WHO shows that everyone living in the targeted areas who are aged one year and above, including pregnant woman, will have access to the cholera vaccine during the campaign.

In addition, two rounds of vaccination are planned in the district. The first round took place between May 2 and 6. The second round will take place between June 6 and 10. 

According to WHO, they use both static sites and mobile teams to reach all eligible people. In addition to WHO, activities of mobilising communities for the uptake of the vaccine, transportation, training and administering of the vaccine are being supported by Unicef, UNHCR, Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) and other local and international partners.

WHO recommends that vaccination against cholera be considered in emergencies and other high-risk scenarios where there are increased threats of outbreaks, when combined with standard prevention and control measures for the disease.

Such measures include ensuring safe drinking water, promotion of good hygiene and sanitation and health education. 

Cholera outbreak reported in Kampala

As communities are grappling with a cholera outbreak in Hoima, the health ministry has also announced an outbreak in Kampala.

In a press statement signed by the acting director general of health services, Dr. Henry G. Mwebesa, it was disclosed that a total of seven cases have been confirmed and are currently undergoing treatment at the China-Uganda Friendship Hospital in Naguru.

Three of the cases are from one family residing in Mpigi district, while the other four are from two families residing in Kalerwe, a Kampala suburb.

Information from the health ministry shows that in order to avert further spread of the disease, two isolation wards have been set up at Mulago National Referral Hospital and Naguru.

The health ministry reminds members of the general public that we are currently experiencing heavy rains which are likely to result in floods and contamination of water sources because of poor hygiene and sanitation, and high-water table in certain districts. Such conditions are known to favour outbreaks of infectious diseases such as cholera, typhoid, dysentery and malaria.

In order to control the spread of cholera, the general public is urged to:

  • Boil or treat all drinking water 

  • Remove stagnant water from around homes by opening water drainage channels

  • Wash hands with soap and clean water after using the toilet and before eating food

  • Cook food thoroughly and eat it while still hot. Always wash fruits and vegetables thoroughly with clean water before eating them, and where possible, peel before eating.

  • Avoid eating cold food or drinking fluids packed in used plastic bottles or polythene bags

  • Collect water for household use from protected springs or taps, instead of open wells because they may be contaminated by disease-causing organisms

  • Seek early treatment from the nearest health facility upon onset of symptoms such as diarrhoea and vomiting.

In addition, the public is further urged to be vigilant and report any suspected cholera cases to the nearest health facility.

Or call the health ministry toll free line on 0800-100-066


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