Omari Shauri, 38, a resident of Tongoni village, Tanga city, wakes up in the morning with a stomach discomfort. Shortly after, he runs out of his room and rushes to the toilet-situated a couple of metres from his one –roomed rented apartment.
Back from the nature of call, he tells his wife that he has been discharging watery stool. Hardly ten minutes later, he goes back to the toilet for another call, with the third and fourth following in an interval of thirty minutes each.
By evening, Omari can hardly stand or sit upright. He was evidently very weak-a situation which prompted his wife – Ashura, to call for assistance from neighbours who helped take the middle aged man to Bombo Regional Hospital.
At the medical facility - a semi referral entity,the doctors immediately diagnosed cholera as the illness facing Omari and administered the necessary treatment right away.He had been severely dehydrated and was then unconscious.
Cholera, an intestinal infection, is caused by ingestion of food or water contaminated with bacteria.
A patient with cholera, discharges water diarrhoea that can quickly lead to dehydration and sometimes death; if treatment is not given in time.
In some cases, the discharge is accompanied by vomiting. It is a disease common in places where standards of hygiene is low-particularly in areas where safe drinking water and adequate sanitation is not guaranteed.
In Tanga Region, an area which has been hard hit by cholera epidemic, is Handeni district.
Available statistics show that a total of 3,410 patients from Handeni District, were admitted in various health facilities due to cholera in 2009.
Acting Tanga Regional Health Officer, Seif Shaibu ,gave the total number of cases from the whole region during the same year as 4953.
Next to Handeni, says Shaibu, is Korogwe district which had recorded 565 patients the same year – followed by Mkinga – 62.
Shaibu told a visiting team of journalists attending a four day seminar on health reporting mid this week that out of the 3410 patients from Handeni, 52 of them lost their lives.
“Handeni District is mostly barren. Its few water sources are highly contaminated”, said the health officer when asked to explain on the reasons for the abnormally high rate of cholera infection in the district.
Noticing that the situation in respect of city cleanliness was deplorable, at least in as far as Tanga city was concerned, – where drainages could not carry rain water efficiently ,with most of them having been blocked a long time back,, the office of the Regional Medical Officer initiated a compaign to clean city environs,according to Shaibu.
The compaign, until now known as Kalembo Day, was formed in 2010 in collaboration with the Regional Commissioner’s Office and the Tanga City Council (TCC).
It is a self help scheme (msaragambo) where all households, including hotels, pharmacies , markets and businesses were ordered to engage themselves in cleanliness of their environments as a protective measure to avoid infections as well as keeping the city clean.
“The primary causes of infection is polluted environment and in some cases lack of latrines”, said Shaibu, adding that in some places ,waste water was allowed to flow uncontrolled.
However, the government has now come up with a strategy to counter the effects of cholera epidemic in order to reduce the frightening rate of the epidemic, especially in places most risk for cholera outbreak.
In view of this, the government has come up with National Sanitation Compaign which will involve three districts- namely Handeni, Mkinga and Korogwe.
Under the five year project, financed by the World Health Organization (WHO) in collaboration with the Tanzania government, villagers in idenfied areas will be lectured on how to build modern latrines.
According to the health officer, technicians who have already been taught on the technology will disseminate knowledge on how to build suitable latrines in places where they lived.
“A villager will be required to call a fundi who will be stationed in a village or ward to learn the technology and build latrine with his own resources. says Shaibu.
The project ,whose cost was not immediately revealed, is expected to take off any time; subject to disbursement of funds by the financiers,in the words of the health expert.