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Uganda launches major vaccination drive as deadly cholera outbreak bites

Uganda launches major vaccination drive as deadly cholera outbreak bites

Uganda has launched a major cholera vaccination campaign in an effort to contain an outbreak that has killed 45 people in the country’s overcrowded refugee camps this year.

With the rainy season approaching, tens of thousands of people who have fled violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo are being targeted alongside the local population. The five-day exercise marks the first large-scale cholera vaccination campaign in Uganda’s history.

Since the outbreak began in February, 2,276 cases have been reported in camps, with 45 deaths, according to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees. The UNHCR’s Ugandan spokesperson, Duniya Aslam Khan, said they hoped to reach 360,000 people, including 70,000 refugees. “With all the preventive measures in place, the number of reported cases is gradually declining,” she said.

Andie Lambe, executive director at International Refugee Rights Initiative, said the programme was essential. “Cholera was confirmed over nine weeks ago and new cases are still being identified,” said Lambe. “However, the time it has taken to implement it has meant that 45 people, many of whom fled to Uganda in search of safety, have already succumbed to the illness.

“Ensuring an adequate response to the refugee influx from the DRC, given its intensity, was challenging in and of itself. The outbreak of cholera has inevitably diverted much needed financial and human resources and, with the limited funding available, this will … result in further suffering and loss of life.”

Uganda’s response to the cholera outbreak, accelerated by squalid conditions in the refugee settlement, has been overstretched, underfunded and compromised by a shortage of resources. It has been further hampered by concerns over a corruption scandal involving government officials, with donors including Britain and Europe threatening to withdraw funding.

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Source: The Guardian