Date: May 22, 2023 Type: Country:

Authorities must act with urgency to prevent further cholera deaths

In response to reports that 15 people have died of cholera in Gauteng, Shenilla Mohamed, Executive Director of Amnesty International South Africa, said:

“People are dying of a preventable and easily treatable disease. This is deeply troubling and unacceptable. Cholera is caused by the intake of contaminated food or water – food and water that should be safe to eat and drink, not contaminated with potentially deadly bacteria.

“The provision of safe water and sanitation is critical in preventing and controlling the transmission of cholera. Despite the Gauteng Health Department’s warning to residents not to drink the tap water, and confirmation that further samples are being tested, now is the time for the Department of Water and Sanitation (DWS) to work with municipalities, such as the City of Tshwane and across the country, to act in the short- and long-term, and invest in and manage South Africa’s basic water and sanitation infrastructure. The current outbreak must be brought under control immediately, and the spread of, and possible future outbreaks, must be prevented.

“The right to access safe, sufficient and reliable water is enshrined in the Constitution, and will continue to be threatened – and lives risked – unless the government prioritises investment in infrastructure, and tackles corruption and the mismanagement of public funds.

“Lives are at stake, and access to water is a human right and not a privilege. The national government must ensure that resources, such as water, are protected. The DWS must urgently work with municipalities, as well as the Department of Health to take immediate action to ensure that water across the country is safe for usage and consumption, and that further deaths are prevented through access to the appropriate medical care and treatment.

“In this instance, all steps taken, as well as information on the source of the outbreak, must be communicated publicly and clearly by the City of Tshwane.

“It is tragic and appalling that people are dying from cholera in South Africa in 2023. The authorities must act decisively immediately.”


A statement issued by the Gauteng Department of Health on Sunday, 21 May 2023, outlines that since Monday, 15 May 2023, 95 people from Kanana, Suurman, Majaneng, Green Field, Carousel View, Lephengville and Sekampaneng in Gauteng have been seen at the Jubilee District Hospital with symptoms similar to those of cholera.

According to the statement, there are 37 people currently admitted at the hospital with cholera symptoms and there are news reports that 15 people have died. The 15 people that died include a 3-year-old child. This is a developing story.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the key facts for cholera are:

  • Cholera is an acute diarrhoeal infection caused by ingestion of food or water contaminated with the bacterium Vibrio cholerae.
  • Cholera remains a global threat to public health and an indicator of inequity and lack of social development.
  • Most of those infected will have no or mild symptoms and can be successfully treated with oral rehydration solution.
  • A global strategy on cholera control, Ending Cholera: a global roadmap to 2030, with a target to reduce cholera deaths by 90% was launched in 2017.
  • Researchers have estimated that each year there are 1.3 to 4.0 million cases of cholera, and 21,000 to 143,000 deaths worldwide due to cholera.
  • Cholera is an acute diarrhoeal disease that can kill within hours if left untreated.
  • Provision of safe water and sanitation is critical to prevent and control the transmission of cholera and other waterborne diseases.
  • Severe cases will need rapid treatment with intravenous fluids and antibiotics.
  • Oral cholera vaccines should be used in conjunction with improvements in water and sanitation to control cholera outbreaks and for prevention in areas known to be high risk for cholera. 

For more information or to request an interview, please contact:

Mienke Mari Steytler, Media and Communications Officer (Maternity Cover), Amnesty International South Africa: +27 (0) 64 890 9224;


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