Publications > Poverty Times #1 > Containing cholera

Poverty Times #1

Containing cholera


Data and maps on poverty, sanitation, safe and clean water and the incidence of cholera were used to help contain the spread of cholera in the Kwazulu Natal province in January 2001. Poverty and cholera data sets showed that the cholera outbreak followed a river flood plain and moved through and towards poor areas (1). By Miriam Babita

The use of the data sets helped to produce a swift, well-coordinated response from national to local government departments (health, water, etc.), who agreed to:

  • provide safe water in tankers and portable toilets in affected areas;
  • develop refresher epidemiology training and reassign health personnel to affected areas;
  • develop health education and awareness of good hygiene practices in both affected and other potentially high-risk areas;
  • provide health material and additional health services in affected areas.

This response led to the containment of the outbreak within three months. It meant that fewer people died (the death rate was 0.22 percent among 100,000 cases) and helped prevent a massive outbreak across the country. The collation and use of information from different research and administrative sources encouraged collaboration between various institutions, provided an opportunity to offer integrated services, and prompted calls for further research on social and environmental data to help future planning and mitigation activities (to respond to flooding, fires and drought).

Miriam Babita
Statistics South Africa,

1. Mathilde Snel and Norbert Henninger, A Review of the Development and Use of Poverty Maps: 14Case Studies, draft, WRI and GRID-Arendal, 2002.