Death toll in Angola cholera epidemic exceeds 1,300, aid workers say

Richard Veerman, who directs the Angola programs of Medecins Sans Frontieres, told reporters in South Africa that at least 31 people had died in the last 24 hours from the waterborne, bacterial disease that so far has infected more than 35,000 people. He said the 31 deaths in the last day was the official reported deaths but that the real toll for the day could be three times higher.

The major outbreak has been an illustration of how Africa is being crippled by preventable diseases because of poverty and lack of infrastructure. The U.N. has said the fatality rate of the outbreak is about 4 percent, far above the 1 percent the World Health Organization considers average. Cholera can be treated easily, but is a major killer in developing countries. It is transmitted through contaminated water and is linked to poor hygiene, overcrowding and inadequate sanitation.

Medecins Sans Frontieres called on the Angolan government, the United Nations and international aid agencies to do more to speed up the delivery of clean, safe water and to make sure those who have become ill get treatment quickly.

The epidemic first surfaced in the slums of Luanda, a vast, squalid wasteland of shacks and refuse that stretches to the horizon in Angola's capital city. Most of the city's estimated 4 million to 6 million people live in the slums without running water or latrines, the AP reports.

Watherill and Veerman said unusually heavy rains and drainage problems caused in part by mountains of rubbish flooded the homes of many slum dwellers in April with water contaminated with human waste. The flooding sped the spread of cholera first in Luanda and later to at least 11 other parts of the country.

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