Africa's largest fresh water lake said to be major waterborne disease breeding site

Lake Victoria contaminated by raw sewage, putting millions of people at risk

AFRICA’S largest fresh water source, Lake Victoria, has been named a major breeding ground for waterborne diseases, putting millions of people at risk, officials warned on Monday.

Elias Kwesi, Tanzania’s Director of Disasters and Emergency, said that the lake -  which is shared by Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda - is contaminated with human waste as most sewerage systems from small and major towns are directed into it. 

One example of this is how over 80% of Kisumu residents - Kenya’s third largest city - are not served by a sewerage system and rely on pit latrines with a small portion using septic tanks. When full, the sludges from these are usually disposed of at the municipality’s overstretched and malfunctioning sewage treatment plant - eventually ending up - semi treated or completely untreated - in rivers, ground water and the lake. 

People living on Lake Victoria’s islands in particular are at risk of cholera, typhoid, and dysentery as most of them drink water directly from it. 

Kwesi said despite the fact that the lake is contaminated with human waste, more people are still using water from the lake, putting them at risk of waterborne diseases on a regular basis. 

One example of this is the cholera outbreak, reported for the first time, in Tanzania’s Ukelewe District’s Urugwa Island on September 16, 2015 - it is now the leading district for cholera outbreaks with 410 cases and 15 death cases by February 11, this year, so far. 

The official urged people not to consume water directly from the lake and instead drink boiled water. 

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