Tackling cholera in fishing communities of western Uganda
Cholera is endemic along the shores of Lake Albert, where the major economic activity is fishing, and access to basic water and sanitation facilities is extremely limited. We supported the work of the Red Cross in the Albertine region of north-western Uganda to sustainably improve the living and health conditions of nearly 10,000 people, focusing in particular on the adoption of good hygiene practices and the provision of safe drinking water and sanitation facilities.
Uganda reports localized outbreaks of cholera at least twice per year. The Nebbi and Pakwach districts situated along the shores of Lake Albert are considered “hotspots” of the disease, recording over 50% of cases in the country, mainly during the rainy seasons.
The major economic activity in the region is fishing, and people use streams both as water sources and defecation points.
In the past 3 years, the International Federation of the Red Cross worked closely with the Uganda Red Cross Society to improve the communities’ access to safe water and adequate sanitation, and to build a community-based surveillance and response system.
- Red Cross volunteer health promoters worked extensively in the fishing villages to promote good hygiene practices and change attitudes, reaching over 65,700 people. This door-to-door awareness raising stimulated a 38% increase in the construction and use of household latrines, bathing shelters, drying racks, hand washing facilities and rubbish pits.
- Nearly 5,000 people have benefited from improved sanitation thanks to the construction of home and communal latrines at fish landing sites to reduce open defecation.
- Oral Rehydration Points (ORP) managed by trained community volunteers were established in fishing communities as a first-line response to cholera outbreaks. Early access to oral rehydration therapy can save lives. When a cholera epidemic occurs, ORP staff can manage cases directly in the community, limiting patients’ travel to health centres and further spread of the disease.
- In addition, oral cholera vaccination campaigns were organised in high-risk areas in coordination with the Ministry of Health and the districts’ Health Officers.
- Sanitation facility coverage in the region’s health centres and schools improved from 51% to 89%.
- Over 9,200 people have gained access to safe drinking water thanks to the construction of three boreholes, the successful rehabilitation of five existing boreholes and a 6 km extension of Kucwinyi sub-county’s existing piped water system.
Despite the improvements to clean water supply and sanitation services achieved, the constant influx of refugees and traders from the nearby border with the Democratic Republic of Congo places a significant strain on the facilities that have been built and on their governance.